Glen Hansard – The Keswick Theatre – Glenside, Pennsylvania – September 12, 2016
No one wanted the recent Glen Hansard concert in suburban Philadelphia to end, least of all the singer himself, who ended up performing a generous eight-song encore. In fact, it was nine songs if you count the extended snippet of Aretha Franklin’s soul classic “Respect” which he wove into his own “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting.”
The concert, the first show on his new tour, was all about giving. Hansard gave love to his audience, the audience returned in kind. In fact, perhaps the single most impressive moment of the show had Hansard call a local musician who he had seen busking for tips that afternoon up to the stage to perform his own song “Red Bird.” The local guitarist, named Ryan (I’m sorry, I did not catch his last name, though he does deserve to be credited) was obviously not let in on this plan, but he was surprised and happy to come up and share his music to what was quite possibly the biggest audience of his career. It seems Hansard just remembered his days busking in Dublin and thought it would be a nice gesture to give one of his brethren a shot. That was a pretty class act.
However, the night was about Hansard’s music, not Ryan’s. The Irish singer and guitarist, and his band shared openly, crafting a two-and-a-half-hour show featuring originals and covers, solo acoustic pieces and full band workouts. It was a full and sumptuous menu.
Hansard has been a member of several Irish bands over the years, including The Swell Season, The Frames and even the short-lived movie band The Commitments, however he is probably best known as the star of the lightly biographical 2006 music film Once, which was later turned into a smash Broadway musical. Once featured Hansard’s best-known song, the gorgeous ballad “Falling Slowly,” which had originally been a Frames song, but was reinvented as a sweet duet for the movie with his co-star and former musical partner Markéta Irglová.
That song came in as the final song before the extended encore, and it is still a stunning piece of songcraft. (It’s not by coincidence that the song won that year’s Oscar for Best Song.) In fact, Hansard did four songs from Once – half of them peppered into the encore – and the audience received them enthusiastically. The first came early in the set, in which Hansard gave a passionate take on “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” his voice wracked with anguish and doubt.
In the encore, this glorious need returned to his voice in a solo acoustic guitar version of “Say It to Me Now” and a sweetly devotional version of “Gold” (which was one of the few songs Hansard did not write or co-write in the film, it was written by Fergus O’Farrel of Interference, the group which portrayed Hansard’s studio band in the movie.)
Of course, Hansard and his guitar have been out pounding the pavements for decades, and Once is not the only calling card in his pack. His sweet and sour folk melodies bring to mind the great Irish bards – he even paid tribute to fellow countryman Van Morrison with a terrific take on “Astral Weeks,” which was done as a medley with Pearl Jam’s “Smile.”
Hansard’s set list had a certain wry good humor, for example he peppered “Lowly Deserter,” a wistful ode to a soldier with an alcohol addiction, with a good humored snippet of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar).”
One of the most unexpected cover snippets – which I’d like to think was a tribute to the recently passed actor Gene Wilder – was a drop-dead gorgeous snippet of the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory standard “Pure Imagination,” which segued sweetly into Hansard’s older Frames song “Star Star.”
By the end of the night, Hansard had shared about 25 songs and two and a half hours with his crowd, and it all seemed too short. Can’t wait for the next time his bus tour passes through town.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 14, 2016.
Photos by Jay S. Jacobs © 2016