Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The (Kansas, Missouri) Swell Season show.

Turns out, Glen Hansard isn't just a great singer/songwriter, he is also a talented story-teller.

Last night's show was originally booked at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, a venue that holds about 900 people (if everyone stands upright and sucks in their guts).

It was soon moved east and across the border, to the much larger Uptown Theater. Wise move. Monday night the place was packed with about 2,200 fans of (a) folk music (b) the film "Once" (c) the Frames or (d) all the above. They came to watch and listen to Glen Hansard (of the Frames) and Markéta Irglová, the stars of the film and the soundtrack, which includes the Academy Award-winning song, "Falling Slowly."

Hansard is a fearless showman, a garrulous Irishman whose charm and quick wit are embellished by his thick brogue. But even he stopped to humbly marvel at the size of his audience and the heft of its response: "This is the best night of the tour," he said, at least once. If it weren't the very best, it's hard to imagine how another could have been much better. My friend, Emily, met him after the show when she was walking her dog down the street by the Theater. He said he really, honestly meant that it was his favorite show.

Not long after a fiery opening set by another young Irish singer/songwriter, Damien Dempsey, Hansard took the stage with a battered acoustic guitar. As if cued, the crowd hushed itself. Away from the microphone and into the silence, Hansard sang, "Say It To Me Now," a ballad from the "Once" soundtrack. And so it went. The crowd was loud when it needed to be, silent when it should have been and receptive to every story and wisecrack. And Hansard had plenty of both.

After his first song, he was joined on stage his band and by Irglová, 20, a shy young lady with an angelic voice and a brogue all her own, one born in the Czech Republic and flavored in Dublin. For the next two hours they would sing together and separately, performing about half of the "Once" soundtrack, several Frames songs and a cover of "Cactus," a Pixies tune. This crowd was in the mood for it all. It sang along, with gusto, to several songs, especially "Falling Slowly." During that one and again during "If You Want Me," couples on the floor fell into the mood, singing along and holding hands or swaying together, arm in arm.

Hansard introduced several songs with a story, once or twice a very long story. Each time his audience indulged him, even when he went on (a bit facetiously) about feeling sad after winning the Oscar: Everything I'd done before that ceased to matter, he said. Not really. A few of his Frames songs got warm responses, too.

He stepped into the "Missouri/Kansas" pile a few times (someone should have told him it's like confusing Dublin and Belfast), but even then the crowd was relatively diplomatic about correcting him. He also apparently confused Brush Creek with a river he thought he wanted to swim in, but that's another story.

The real story this evening was the reception these two earned from a crowd so large it raised the temperature on the floor by about 15 degrees. You just don't see music this artful, quaint and personal get the kind of reaction it got Monday evening. To paraphrase Irglová's now-famous Oscar speech: A night like this proves that even far-out dreams are possible.

Setlist: Say It To Me Now; All the Way Down; Lies; This Low; Drown Out; When Your Mind's Made Up; (new song, Marketa Irglová); Falling Slowly; Leave; What Happens When the Heart Just Stops; Bad Bone; Cactus; Your Face; Once; If You Want Me; Blue Shoes (fiddle instrumental); Fitzcarraldo; Star Star; Red Chord/Here Comes the Night.

(Tim from The Star)


Mary Beth said...

love that movie and their music!

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