Dermot Kennedy – o2 Arena, London – 14th April 2023

 Written & Photographed by James Conway

When you’ve sold out the o2 arena, it’s safe to say you’re doing alright as a musician. 

Irish mega star, Dermot Kennedy, swooped into London on his last night of his UK ‘Sonder Tour’  to a packed 20 thousand capacity arena show – and it was nothing short of magical and emotional. We jumped our writer and photographer ,James Conway down to fill us in…

Upon arriving at North Greenwich station, eager Dermot fans were  greeted by a display board by @allontheboard with a poem containing the names of every track he has released.

Thousands of fans gathering around the venue grounds, donning many different pieces of merchandise – some new and some dating back as far as 2018 when Dermot wasn’t selling out venues left right and centre. It was a sight to behold and, as a fan since 2017 it was incredible to see how large and dedicated his fan base has become .

The much awaited support act for the evening appeared on stage: Noah Kahan , known amongst his fans as  ‘The Jewish Ed Sheeran’ or ‘The Folk Malone’ as he calls himself. 

Carrying a mandolin, Noah cruised onto Dermot’s sloped stage. He opened his set with ‘All My love’ which certainly had the crowds bopping along – with a very simple but effective light design – it really was a taste for what was to come later on in the show . 

Pushing on from this we had introductions to his band and really got the crowd singing and moving with ‘Growing Sideways’ – a very slow tempo sad boi song (as with most of kahan’s discography). which moved elegantly onto ‘Northern Attitude’ which as with the other tracks mentioned was off his newest Album ‘Stick Season’. 

Which, recently became a massive hit in his publicly secret fan base. As Noah played more songs from “SS” and even older songs it culminated in the track that really took his career to a much bigger height it was already at – the title track ‘Stick Season’. 

From what I could see (and hear) everyone knew all the words, which for a support, is quite impressive – the crowd were entertained and certainly ready for the main event…..

The lights and music circulating around the arena suddenly start dimming to black, and a chime of morse code starts playing over some odd static/broken up words on three massive LCD back boards. The morse code translates to ‘We want this to be good’ words which Dermot has been carrying around with him since he was 17 busking the streets of Boston, and ‘Love will S.O.S’. 

The morse code climaxes in drummer, Micheál Quinn laying down some mighty fine kicks and cymbal smashes into the start of the set. Kennedy opens with  ‘Blossom’, which is the final track on his sophomore Album – ‘Sonder’ and really kickstarted the night for the eager fans. 

A lighting rig arm extended down the middle of the stage, which shone a stark white light giving Dermot an effective, powerful silhouette to use during the opener. 

As Blossom came to an end, a very familiar drum pattern blasted from the overhead speakers – which led us into debut album hit ‘Power Over Me’ – during this song we did get a tease of what visuals would be shown behind Dermot as he’s performing, nothing short of unique, bold and all at the same time matching the vibe of the songs. 

Following this crowd pleaser, Dermot played a track from his second album, which, even before it got released, was a fan favourite – ‘One Life’. 

From what I could see, as far back as the sound stage, quite literally everyone knew every single word, was I at all surprised? No. During the chorus of this track the LCD screens were projecting this beautiful haze of blues/oranges/yellows, that really left me in awe seeing Dermot sing his heart out in front of. 

As the night’s performance was in full swing, we were treated to an old classic from Dermot’s 2018 EP ‘Young & Free’. Good grief. This was an absolute dream to hear live, after so long being left off the set list, and just as I thought it couldn’t get better, It really did. The final chorus was arranged very differently, and in between each line – a very sexy crash of drums were played with the same visuals as the intro before ‘Blossom’. To have an old classic being brought back and given a new energy, to a new (and og) crowd is exciting to say the least. 

A small blackout interval with a spoken word audio track being played, led to a piano being stood upon the sloped stage. Our halfway point for the evening. As Dermot took a seat, a beam of light shone down upon him. We had a small introduction to the next song “Take your mind to a memory so vivid to you and replay it during this song” Kennedy continued “this is ‘Rome’”.

Rome (to me) is a perfect piano Ballad (slight bias). The emotion from the lyrics all the way to Dermot’s incredibly untamed vocals, makes this track a force to be reckoned with. 

Not even one minute in and the o2 had been lit up by 20 thousand phone lights. From just looking at Dermot’s Cheshire Cat smile, I could tell he was having an ‘I’ve made it’ Moment. Transitioning from this was one of the more personal tracks Dermot had written for ‘Sonder’, and that’s ‘Innocence & Sadness’. Kennedy refused to engage in what the song was about. However, he said that the meaning changes depending who is listening and what they are going through. 

From two piano songs to an absolute classic ‘After Rain’. An emotional one slowly building in an explosive finale with Dermot strumming his guitar like tomorrow isn’t an option, whilst his whole band are giving it their all – and to top it off, the sea of fans singing “You won’t go lonely”. 

Continuing from this we heard the likes of debut title track ‘Without Fear’, then heard more tracks from the sophomore: ‘Better Days’, ‘Homeward’ and Kiss me’ and 2019 #1 single ‘Outnumbered’. 

As soon as we all knew it, Dermot was on his last song. Our headline act mentioned “it’s the last show of the tour so I don’t care about losing my voice on this one” – it could only be “Something To Someone” the track that very, very quickly became a massive hit! Everyone was singing their absolute hearts out to this, it was so loud you couldn’t hear the PA systems for the first chorus. 

And just like that, Dermot & Co had concluded their UK Arena leg of the ‘Sonder Tour’. 

A truly mesmerising thing to see – from seeing him perform to a small crowd in a church in 2018 to then 5 years later selling out the entire o2 Arena is honestly incredible to see. Proud is a complete understatement.  

Dermot will be back in the UK for a headline slot at Victoria Parks annual ‘All Points East’ festival at the back end of august.  Tickets Here

Written & Photographed by James Conway