Concert Review: Mark Dignam at Madison's Square Garden

Mark plays Madison's Square Garden In August of 2014 Mark Dignam played his second enchanting gig in Madison's Square Garden--not the New York arena, but rather the back yard of the Madison family in Cincinnati, Ohio (literally, their square garden). It's hard to imagine a more successful concert atmosphere, with excellent weather, a relaxed and welcoming audience, and the hum of crickets and cicadas as accompaniment to Mark's guitar and vocals. You can read more about hosting house concerts in this post.

From busking in the streets of Dublin to... Mark Dignam is a Dubliner living in Pittsburgh, who earned his bones busking on Grafton Street with contemporaries the likes of Academy Award winning Glen Hansard (The Frames, Once). Listening to his music it's easy to see the similarities: evocative guitar melodies, lyrics full of poetry and pain, sung by a voice at once raw and sweet. What comes through in his live performance, though, is the obvious joy Mark derives from an audience. He encouraged us to sing along with almost every song, and we did, latching on to the refrains with ease.

A varied set list including songs from Box Heart Man, to Old Irish tunes to Re-Build The set was a mixture of songs from 2005's "Box Heart Man" and recently released "Re-Build" with some older works and traditional Irish music thrown in for good measure. Mark says he doesn't work with a set list; rather he chooses his songs as he goes, according to the feel of the crowd. During the evening he took us from the heights of "Divine", "Build", and "Hope the Sun Shines" to the humor of "Jane" (Hey Jane, what's your name now?/Heard you married that crazy bastard) to the rage and despair of "Damn You California" and "Crow"--and then back again.

Mark brings on the local talent Most numbers were unaccompanied, but on a couple, Mark was joined by local musicians. David Eberhardt doubled on guitar and also did a wonderful job as the opening act; Denise Saker played a mean fiddle with Mark as well. Here is a partial video of the Irish tune, "When Will We Be Married Molly".

It can be frustrating that the music industry is not always a meritocracy. Some incredibly talented and shockingly cool artists and performers are available to play for smaller and more intimate audiences. I take some consolation in knowing that I and my friends are the beneficiaries and get to see Mark Dignam perform in such an intimate setting. I hope that one day he achieves the success he so richly deserves.

If you enjoy hearing about the music industry and what it's like to be in it, Mark spoke on The Juice Cast podcast very candidly about his experiences, music industry trends and how to get in the music industry. You can listen to that show here, or on iTunes.

Reviewed by Jeb Brack

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