Glen Hansard has always been on my list of people to see perform live. I’ve been a long-time fan of The Frames, I saw “the movie” and the world premiere of the Swell Season documentary at TFF, and I’d even rooted for the musical while it was still just a glimmer in the Theatrical Index. But somehow I never got around to seeing an actual concert. After a number of near misses and sold-outs, I learned about a quietly promoted show at Le Poisson Rouge and bought tickets as soon as they went on sale.
This marks the best decision I’ve made so far in 2012. After an almost three-hour show, filled with friends and guests, I was reeling with the true love and passion Glen brings to his music. He is so kind and supportive, letting other musicians take center stage. But when he lets loose with a wail during a solo or sings a sweetly introspective song, he’s mesmerizing and incredibly refreshing to watch.
He told the story of how his new album Rhythm and Repose had its beginnings at LPR, and that he felt pulled to do a show there in addition to his stint at the insanely larger Beacon Theater. He also talked about his love of NYC: “There’s just a level of excellence here. Everyone’s like, ‘Hello Irish! What you got?’” The crowd was charmed and ready to stay with him for however long he wanted to be there. Which ended up being a long time.
Among his set of solo and Swell Season material, he invited up Desmond Child to sing an original song, which ended up being “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Glen summed up our thoughts nicely: “Fuckin’ blew my mind too!” The full band launched into The Frames and played “Revelate,” the one song I wishfully hoped to hear but was sure they wouldn’t play. A little later, he sang an incredible cover of REM’s “Hairshirt,” explaining it was on a mix tape he received from his girlfriend when he was 15 years old. He also invited cast members from Once up to sing (beautifully) “Gold.” And he brought up even more people for the full-on Levon Helm tribute that brought down the house, including Lisa Hannigan, of whom I am now a fan.
He ended with Springsteen’s “Drive All Night,” sweetly dedicated, and segued into “The Parting Glass.” Usually sung at an Irish wake, he talked about how you should celebrate people who move on, because we inherit and learn the best qualities from them. Then he led a cheers to Levon and a full sing-along to end the incredible set.
It felt like a really special night not just for the audience, but for Glen too. He’s a true artist with a real knack for reaching into a song and pulling out more feeling than you thought was possible. His gratitude is palpable and his sincerity is a rarity in the music industry. Last night was certainly a celebration of the people who have inspired him, and he left us with a “goodnight, and joy be to you all.”
You Will Become
Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting
When Your Mind’s Made Up
Talking to the Wolves
Bird of Sorrow
Livin’ on a Prayer (performed by Desmond Child, songwriter) (!!!)
In These Arms
Astral Weeks (Van Morrison cover)
Fitzcarraldo (The Frames)
Revelate (The Frames)
Hairshirt (REM cover) (Did I mention Michael Stipe was spotted in the crowd?)
Gold (performed by Once cast members Paul Whitty, Erikka Walsh, Cristin Milioti, and J. Michael Zygo)
The Rocky Road to Dublin (performed by Paul Whitty)
Don’t Do It (The Band)
The Weight (The Band)
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band performed by Lisa Hannigan and friends)
Until the Lion Learns to Speak (performed by K’naan)
Feeling the Pull
Blue Moon (sing-along!)
Drive All Night (Bruce Springsteen)
The Parting Glass