Mr Dempsey burst onto the stage like he had just exploded out of the national grid. He was meant to be merely the Taoiseach’s warm-up, instead he set the hall on fire.
Even though Mr Cowen did raise his game and deliver one of his better appeals for national unity, there was no way he could compete with Nuclear Noel’s white-knuckle ride of anger — it was like U2 opening for Daniel O’Donnell.
Noel sounded mad as hell, and at times, well, just plain mad. Fianna Fáil was sick of the corruption smears and they weren’t gonna take it no more.
Yeah, ministers knew the toxic bankers and the construction slumdig millionaires, but it was guilt by association to imply anything else.
The Government may have allowed them to peruse a more expensive menu, but they didn’t feed the greed — the economic traitors did that all by themselves.
“There’s no parallel in history for the damage they have done to this nation — except perhaps Cromwell — and even Cromwell was motivated by reasons other than personal gain.
“Knowing someone does not mean you share their vices or their practices,” he boomed to wild applause.
Mr Dempsey used emotive language to paint the opposition as enemies of Ireland. “Fine Gael and Labour will some day regret the way they danced around a wounded economy,” he snarled darkly. Well, at least Enda and Eamon don’t have to dance around their political handbags anymore then.
The audience was in rapture, suddenly, Micheál Martin has a serious rival if Mr Cowen joins the 1,000 a day losing their jobs.
Handlers tried to head that off by pumping-up the Taoiseach’s profile with a little video in which the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up blared out over images of our political Jagger doing such rock’n’roll stunts as shaking hands with the foreign minister of South Korea and looking through documents at his desk. It was all a bit weird, but then so was the whole evening.
It began with the re-birth of Bertie as the long lost taoiseach was ushered into the hall on a wave of nostalgia — but he was not allowed to speak.
Instead, we had another promo reel, this time re-using the eulogies from Bill Clinton regarding Mr Ahern’s one undisputed triumph — the Northern peace process.
“He never lost his energy, his drive, his determination,” Mr Clinton enthused.
And all that was of course correct, but Bertie had to leave office early because he did lose his memory — especially when it came to explaining to the Mahon corruption probe where all those strange Sterling cash lodgments that sloshed around his bank accounts came from while finance minister. Was it the bundle he won on the geegees?
Or part of the 30 grand he handed over to someone to change for him and then totally forget the identity of said lucky individual?
Anyway, we went from the mystery of Bertie’s used British tenners to the niche novelty of the Irish Tenors, as the operatic-lite trio took to the stage to deliver a rather under-whelming version of the Rare Auld Times.
Then Mr Cowen glided onto the podium to a track from Arcade Fire’s album Neon Bible. He was preaching to believers, but the opinion polls showed the rest of the country was praying for change.