(If you’d like to catch up, find part 1 here.)
So, I saw Glen Hansard play at The Wiltern on Wednesday night. It was definitely an evening of mixed emotions.
I had never been to a show at The Wiltern, and was very pleased with the venue. It is a beautiful older building, the architecture in the interior is quite lovely- the ceilings and all the intricacies on them made it a great setting for a show. It is a smaller venue with a standing room floor and a balcony with assigned seats. The floor has a few different levels and that made it nice and easy to find a good place to view the stage. We were basically as close as we could get for the standing room priced tickets.
I went into this show with much anticipation. I knew I would be seeing quality, regardless of the form it took. I was so hopeful to hear my favorite song, due to my conversation with Mr. Hansard on Monday.
There were a few setbacks, mainly due to the people around me- three girls in front of us with terrible, pessimistic attitudes, and a guy behind us who was too drunk (or stoned? Or both?) to act with courtesy. He sang loudly and terribly out of tune, he yelled out to the stage at the most inappropriate times, and he had no care for those of us standing around him. Luckily, he settled down about halfway through the show.
Kelly Hogan opened the show with a 40 minute set. The girl has a killer set of vocal chords and she positively swooned me with her choice of songs. She didn’t appear to have written any of them herself, but she sang them with soul, and passion … and a bit of cockiness that I had to ignore after a while so that I could continue to enjoy her set. That’s all I have to say about her.
When Glen Hansard takes the stage, he positively controls the audience and everything around. He started his set with The Storm, It’s Coming, off of his new solo album (Rhythm and Repose). (Playlist embedded at the end of this post.) To just stride onto stage and sit behind a piano and play a slow, beautiful song as an opener was a great way to get us all hooked into the rest of the evening. He continued with You Will Become, also from the new album.
Let me pause for a moment and comment on how, alongside Colm Mac Con Iomaire, there were two string players (perhaps a violist and a violinist) in the background adding depth to a lot of the music. I would like to know how they got that job, and how I can get that job next time. Every time they came on stage, all I could think about was how awesome it would be if it were me. I would probably do anything to be able to play violin on stage alongside Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Next time, it will be me. I will figure this out.
Ok, on to the rest now.
I already mentioned in part one how difficult it is for me to enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music that is being played. While enjoying this show, I started to wonder how it affects the artist who is singing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two songs Mr. Hansard played, and I attribute this to the face that I was already incredibly familiar with them. The majority of the audience didn’t seem to connect much to those songs, at least in juxtaposition to the third song played- When Your Mind’s Made Up, from the movie Once and from the Swell Season’s 2006 self-titled CD. The feel of the room changed once this very familiar song started, and the audience collectively got involved with the song and enjoyed it together. How does it affect an artist when he is playing a song he so very much enjoys and wants to share but the audience isn’t connecting to?
After this song he played a few more from Rhythm and Repose, including Bird of Sorrow, which is my favorite from the new CD. He prefaced this one with the thought that it is about his Mum, or about Ireland. In the middle he stopped strumming his guitar and wiped tears out his eyes. A truly beautiful moment- the hearts of artists are something to be reckoned with.
After eight songs with a full band backing him up (including the two extra string players and three brass players), Mr. Hansard took the stage to himself for a few songs. This man is a master at pulling you in, particularly when it is just him and his guitar. (His guitar, by the way, had apparently broken right before the show. We got to hear the story of how special it has become to him after filming Once with it, and how a friend from Long Beach drove up to fix it right before the show started.) The passion that Mr. Hansard is able to evoke while playing music (because it is real, unadulterated passion) is something that he passes on to the audience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears- and not as a crazed fan, just purely as someone who is being moved by the musician and his music. He ended the solo set with a Van Morrison cover, and got more sound out of his acoustic guitar than I’ve heard some full bands make. Epic.
It was halfway through the show at this point, and not at one moment did it yet seem like the right time for Fitzcarraldo to be played. I started getting worried, but tried not to think about it. I really wanted to just enjoy the show for how it was.
With the full band there were quite a few more Swell Season songs played. It was nice to hear the familiar, but I found myself really hoping at every song change to hear something new, or something from the far-off past in the Frames’ discography. It really would have been great to hear a Frames song, particularly since they were all on stage together. As I’ve experienced with all the other Glen Hansard shows I’ve been too, there were a fair amount of “sing-along” songs to participate in. That is always a nice way to be able to connect with the music. The initial set ended with High Horses from the Swell Season’s second album Strict Joy, and they left the stage for a few minutes while we all did our clapping and cheering in anticipation for the encore.
One more song from Rhythm and Repose was played during the encore, and then Lisa Hannigan joined Mr. Hansard on stage and played one of her songs, Little Bird. The rest of her band was brought up and the whole crowd of everyone on stage sang some songs in tribute of Levon Helm. It was at this point I realized Fitcarraldo was nowhere to be found in the evening’s set list, and I did what I could to let that go and enjoy the rest of the evening.
The show ultimately ended with The Auld Triangle, performed by Mr. Hansard and the Frames. I am familiar with this song only from this video of Mr. Hansard and Bono recently singing it together. As it seems to have a lot of meaning in Ireland, it was naturally the right way for Mr. Hansard to end his show.
It was a great show. It really was. Glen Hansard knows how to take the stage and he has all the talent he needs to back it up. It is great to see him playing with The Frames because they are all so familiar with playing with each other. They’ve been together for over 20 years at this point. Oh, what I would do to have friends who I could play music with for that long!
Naturally, due to Monday’s events, I left the show feeling a bit saddened. Frustrated, maybe, but ultimately just a bit sad. There’s no one to blame for not hearing “my” song. I just got really excited that I was told I could expect to hear it. I assume it was simply and easily forgotten about. I was, however, surprised to not hear a single Frames song during the entirety of the show- that was more unexpected than just not hearing Fitzcarraldo.
And now I’ll admit this: on Thursday morning while I was eating breakfast, I made a Twitter account for basically the sole purpose of tweeting Mr. Hansard and Mr. Mac Con Iomaire to complement them on the show and slyly “ask” about Fitzcarraldo. Find me @iamRebekahRae. I can’t promise much tweeting activity, but it is nice to be able to directly converse with these musicians who I so strongly respect. (Mr. Mac Con Iomaire did actually respond to me.) I’ll be waiting in anticipation for the next tour, which I can only assume will be at least two years from now. With all that time to wait, I hope that next time this mounting anticipation amounts to something other than a third let down.
Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy my massive collection of Frames, Swell Season, and Glen Hansard discography, and try to convince everyone I know to give them a try as well.
You can start here! Listen to this playlist and it will be like you were at the show! And the playlist isn’t live. And you can’t see the musicians. But hey, it’s the exact set list of the show on Wednesday at The Wiltern. Enjoy!