Damien Jurado live at Ulster Sports Club, Belfast

There's a hush in Belfast's Ulster Sports Club as acclaimed songwriter and singer Damien Jurado makes up for lost time with a stunning set for his fans.

Damien Jurado

Ulster Sports Club, Belfast

The glitzy golden tinsel of the backdrop on the stage, seemingly at odds with the Washington troubadour’s downbeat style, only seemed to accentuate his tales of everyday happenings populated with a cast of individuals looking for resolution, or looking for love.

Starting a gig with one of your best-known songs can be a dangerous bar to set. ‘Ohio’ is a devastating tale of abduction and loss of innocence:

Out from my window. “How far is Ohio?” She laughed and pointed out east. She said, “I grew up there with my dear mother and I haven’t seen her since thirteen. You see, I was taken while she lay sleeping by my father’s hired men. We moved to the city so far from our family. I haven’t been back there since.

It’s a high watermark for any artist, but Damien Jurado has managed to maintain a consistently high output throughout his work, and quality rarely dips during an evening of impeccable musicianship.

Telling the crowd this is his first trip to Belfast, and such oversight is ‘unacceptable’. To make up for such lost time he states he intends keeping the talk down to a minimum, and play as many songs as he can in the time allotted.

I’m neither a motivational speaker nor a comedian, so enough of that shit.

And, true to his word, there is little chat, save a brief anecdote of his 20-minute flight from Glasgow.

The Glasgow gig, in contrast, was a much more interactive affair with the artist effectively hosting a Q and A with the audience and fielding questions on songwriting and his own mental health issues.

Tonight, it’s all about the songs. But, oh what wondrous songs. Liberally sprinkled with tracks from his two most recent albums. From the romanticism of ‘In The Shape Of A Storm’ and ‘Newspaper Gown’ to the enigmatic ‘Museum of Flight’. Comparisons have been made to Bob Dylan and even Jackson Browne.

What made you think I could live in your frown. As you’re waiting around for the witches to drown.

These are songs that stay with long after the gig, and lines you repeat, toy with, and mull over in your head for days.

Damien’s voice is quite unique too. There is a softness, and surprising fragility, matched with a slight rasp, that has a lingering resonance and beautifully adds to his strummed and finger-picked acoustic guitar.

The music is sparse but there is huge emotional heft here and it’s deeply affecting. It’s clear we are in the presence of a special talent. Some gigs can be judged by the rapturous reception an artist receives at the end of the concert.

This one can be measured by the silence and respect while the songs were being performed. Damien Jurado has been flying under many people’s radar for too long. Hopefully, word of such a beautiful low-key talent spreads and he becomes a big noise!