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Margo Price in Dublin review: Gut-quaking mayhem strewn through a rollicking evening

The country singer brings Sunday-night fever to grey, sleepy Dublin

Margo Price performs onstage at The Americana Music Association 22nd Annual Honors & Awards Show on September 20, 2023 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Tammie Arroyo/Variety via Getty Images)
Margo Price as been one of the leading lights of left-leaning country music since her 2016 debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. Photograph: Tammie Arroyo/Variety via Getty

Margo Price

Vicar Street, Dublin
★★★★☆

Early in her enjoyably raw and sludgy show at Vicar Street, the country singer Margo Price walks to the back of the stage and sits behind a drum kit. Eyes closed, head low, she rattles out a pulverising solo while her band deliver a seismic rock-out more Led Zeppelin than Dolly Parton.

It’s one of several moments of gut-quaking mayhem strewn through a rollicking evening. Price has a beautiful voice, but when the lyrics turn to her demons – principally good booze and bad men, and her years of struggle in the music industry – she will pivot to a snarl that corkscrews into the listener’s chest.

She has been one of the leading lights of left-leaning country music since her 2016 debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. That record movingly tracked her lost years as a Nashville party animal and her travails as she tried to get her career off the ground. Success, when it came, arrived in an avalanche. Farmer’s Daughter reached the American country charts. Its follow-up, All American Made, featured a duet with her hero Willie Nelson and had the blessing of Jack White, who released it on his Third Man Records label. Having paid her dues on the wrong side of the tracks, she was now among royalty.

She was just getting started. In 2022 she emerged from the pandemic with a riveting autography, Maybe We’ll Make It: A Memoir, chronicling her hardscrabble upbringing in small-town Illinois and her challenging relationship with alcohol. She also announced that she was now sober, a journey tracked last year on her excellent Strays album.

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These projects are infused with pain and joy – qualities likewise front and centre at Vicar Street. It’s a commanding turn: you’d never guess she was up at 6am for a flight from Glasgow. (She played at the city’s Celtic Connections the previous night.)

But, for all the ferocity, she initially struggles to make a connection. The downstairs audience is seated, and early on a library-like hush prevails. Price does her best to disrupt it, and the crowd finds it hard to resist the bulldozing majesty of Four Years of Chances, which culminates in a shaggy outro, led by her guitarist husband Jeremy Ivey, that screams Seventies arena rock and which torpedoes the polite atmosphere.

Her music can be heavy – some of her lyrics read like a collection of heartbroken country cliches – but there is lightness too, and mischief. Tennessee Song is quick-footed and irreverent; Paper Cowboy builds from a harmonic solo to another molten outpouring of guitar.

Returning after a costume change – a full-length dress replaced by a more sparkly outfit – she’s back behind the drums. Then, during the encore zip through Heartless Mind, she hands out flowers from a bouquet before jumping off the stage and plunging into the audience, now on their feet and rapturous. It took a while, but Price has brought Sunday-night fever to grey, sleepy Dublin.

Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about television and other cultural topics