Former Glee and Celtic Thunder star Damian McGinty visited Phoenix for two nights of the Young Forever Tour this week. The 26-year-old Irish singer filled The Listening Room with fans of varying ages, all of whom were completely enamored by McGinty’s boyish charm and impressive pipes.
McGinty’s touring guitarist Dave Bakey opened the acoustic evening, playing stunning classical guitar and backed by various instrumental tracks that only enhanced his performance. The audience sat at rapt attention, following Bakey’s impossibly fast fingers. The applause at the end of his brief set was thunderous as Bakey humbly exited before returning to play McGinty’s set as well.
McGinty bounded onstage to huge cheers, jumping right in to “Slow Dance” from his debut album and a soulful cover of Celtic Thunder’s “Feels Like Home”. The Listening Room boasts a distraction-free environment, so the audience was respectful, singing and swaying quietly. A good portion of the crowd was much older than McGinty’s mid-20s, but their connection to his music was true and sweet.
McGinty introduced “Bus to Mexico” with a laugh, saying that several aggressive fan requests prompted him to add the track to this tour’s setlist. Fans swooned for “Forever I Do”, McGinty’s sweet tribute to his fiance and “Home Sweet Home”, about moving from his home country of Ireland to California when he took the role in Glee.
The evening was a completely laidback and intimate experience as McGinty’s set felt more like a conversation between friends. He told jokes and fun stories about his musical career- all of which led up to a medley of covers he performed in the past with the world-renowned Celtic Thunder. A chagrined McGinty launched into several Donny Osmond covers with a sheepish smile, kneeling before the starstruck room for “Puppy Love” and Neil Sedaka’s “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen”.
These throwback covers had the band laughing and reminiscing on McGinty’s prepubescent voice. Today, he boasts a rich baritone which is matched by his soaring falsetto. He threw a jaunty cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” to round out this interlude.
The rest of the night was dedicated to celebrating the recent release of McGinty’s debut album. Only a few weeks past the release and the fans knew every word to “Saltwater”, “No More Time”, and “You Should Know”. The band did a beautiful rendition of “Unbelievable” before taking their leave. Not ones to wait long, they immediately returned for an encore of “Geronimo”.
McGinty’s enormous talent and unique career made the evening at The Listening Room one to remember. He displayed an easy confidence that enhanced the intimacy of the space and the camaraderie between the musicians onstage made things more fun for everyone. The Listening Room provides a unique experience, one that suited McGinty perfectly and one that we’re eager to repeat when he returns to the Valley.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel