Romantic Ireland is not dead and gone – We have Declan O’Rourke

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How it’s New York: The performance took place at The Irish Arts Center in New York City
How it’s Irish: Declan O’Rourke is Irish

I saw the wonderful Declan O’Rourke at the Irish Arts Center on Sunday night at his final performance of a three night run as part of their Valentine’s weekend programming.

Declan O'Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke and orchestra ©Ian Toft

The show opened with a 12-piece orchestra playing a piece composed for the evening. This was followed by the arrival of the very large presence of O’Rourke on stage. With the stance and posture of an ancient Irish warrior he opened the set with the very somber and haunting, “Her Silken Brown Hair”, which sounds more like a traditional Irish ballad than something penned by a 39-year-old.

This is the second time I’ve seen O’Rourke at this venue and he is always a pleasure to listen to. Throughout the evening I went from making comparisons of his performance to touches of the sean nós tradition, Luke Kelly, Rufus Wainwright and I finally settled on a combination of them all, with the addition of the Irish male equivalent of Adele. This man knows how to write a love song. I get the sense that he has loved and lost. He is a pure romantic. Glad to say, Yeats was wrong and romantic Ireland lives.

Throughout the evening I went from making comparisons of his performance to touches of the sean nós tradition, Luke Kelly, Rufus Wainwright and I finally settled on a combination of them all with the addition of the Irish male equivalent of Adele.

Declan was born and raised in Dublin’s Ballyfermot neighborhood. The O’Rourke’s moved to Australia when Declan was still a young boy. He returned to Ireland in his late 20’’s and entered the music scene in Dublin and the rest, as they say, is history. His family were artists and his grandfather, a painter who originally came from Galway, inspired Declan to return to the west where he now lives with his fiancé.

 Declan O'Rourke ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke ©Ian Toft

When he introduced the song “Then you Know”, a beautiful love song he wrote for his fiancé, he claimed it would be very useful for him in the relationship should he get into trouble because he could always pull the card that he wrote a song for her after all. Humor aside, the emotions behind it are profound. He described the sense of wanting to let someone know him the way that he wanted to know them. See I told you he was a romantic.

 Declan O'Rourke ©Ian Toft

Declan O’Rourke ©Ian Toft

The evening covered all the songs on his latest release “In Full Colour,”  featuring a 50 piece RTE Concert Orchestra. A nice perk being able to bring the evening home. Interspersed with his powerful emotive ballads – “Galileo”, “Sarah”, “We didn’t mean to go to sea”, were the upbeat “Time Machine” and Lightening Bird Wind River Man”. Adding a scintillating backdrop to O’Rourke’s voice was the musical arrangements ofHenry Hey.

This album is his greatest hits he claimed, though he admitted he felt a bit young to have a greatest hits and hoped that he would have actual hits one day and that they would be great. Oh, I think he is being modest. “Galileo” has already received many accolades and has been recorded by Josh Groban and Eddie Reader.

I for one am looking forward to watching the trajectory of this man’s career.

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