the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 2)

(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.

Lisa Hannigan and many of her friends/vocalists, along with Glen Hansard and the entirety of The Frames

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!

 

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the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 1)

You may remember this post that professes my respect and admiration for Glen Hansard and the music he writes and performs. About how he is my favorite musician and he can do no wrong when it comes to music. He has massive talent. He seems to be a down-to-earth, well-intentioned human being.

Well, here is another post about him, but this time about the two shows I was privileged enough to attend this week.

I’ll start with Monday. My employers were so kind as to let me leave work a half hour early to drive through rush-hour traffic and find parking in the streets of Hollywood so that I could watch Mr. Hansard perform for free at Amoeba Records.

I was under the impression that this was an acoustic set, which would have been amazing, but upon arrival I saw the stage set up for much more than just Mr. Hansard. Sound check brought Colm Mac Con Iomaire and his violin onto the stage, and as I was surrounded by strangers, I texted my boyfriend my excitement. The full band was there. This tour to promote Glen Hansard’s solo album (Rhythm and Repose) is a tour with all the members of The Frames! My mind was racing. If I could just get a few minutes to talk with Mr. Hansard after the show, surely he’d agree to play my favorite song when I saw him again two days later (see the aforementioned blog post about that saga).

More about that in a few.

The show was fantastic (like I had any doubt?!). The was the first time, according to Mr. Hansard, that the band was playing these songs together on stage. We, the lucky audience at Amoeba, were experiencing the very beginning of the tour. I was happy to have a decent view of the stage, only having to dodge around people’s heads a few times during the show.

A week earlier I found that Rhythm and Repose was streaming on NPR during the days leading up to the release of the album (June 19th), and I listened to it all week (literally), at least two or three times a day. I find it hard to completely enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music, and I was unsure about seeing Mr. Hansard twice before having time to become familiar with his new songs. Thanks to the NPR stream, I basically had them memorized before the Amoeba show. I also then felt like I was the only one singing along, but I didn’t dwell too much on that.

These two are who I get my strongest musical inspiration from- Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire

The show was a decent mix of new and old songs. There were some nice sing-a-longs included- some requested by the man with the guitar, others just happening naturally. It was a nice setting with all of us enjoying the music and the company. I was very happy to hear a Frames song- People All Get Ready– and also happy to hear my favorite off the new CD- Bird of Sorrow (maybe I teared up a bit during that one). I also now have a newfound love for High Hope, which was initially released quite a few years ago on a CD from Music of Ireland- Welcome Home.

So the show ended and Amoeba had a nice deal for us- though it was the evening of the 18th of June, we were able to purchase the CD there, a day before its official United States release date. Also, we couldn’t stand in line and ask Mr. Hansard to autograph anything except the new CD, due to time restrictions. Fair enough- I was intending to buy it anyway and had just assumed I’d need to wait until Wednesday night and purchase it at his show at The Wiltern.

The CD was purchased (thanks, Jeremy!) and we stood in line. For an hour or so. I was hungry. I had been standing for 2.5 hours after 8.5 hours at work. I was also tired just because night time is not my cup of tea. I already have Mr. Hansard’s autograph (twice, actually), and I have met him before. But I was on a mission. I needed to be sure I would hear Fitzcarraldo on Wednesday night.

Having the opportunity to talk with someone you have a deep, appreciative respect for is a wonderful experience. Meeting Mr. Hansard the first time around, though I didn’t talk much, is a memory I will always keep close to my heart. It was outside, after a Swell Season show, and it was laid back- we just waited by the back stage door to see if he would come out to talk with us, and eventually he did. And we all had a good time without worrying about time restraints or people in a line behind us. This meeting at Amoeba, however, I will always look back on and laugh. Or cringe. Both, probably. It is so much more difficult for me (and- everyone? Maybe?) to keep my cool after I’ve been standing in a line for an hour in anticipation for what is to come. It also doesn’t help that there are people rushing you through this meet and greet and rushing the artist as well.

So, the two minutes I had to speak with him went something like this:

—–

*shake hands*

*push my CD towards Mr. Hansard accidentally, so as to rush the whole process even more*

me: “Hi, great show! Phenomenal, really.”

GH: “Thanks.” (Probably something better than that.)

me: “So, I have a favor to ask you … perhaps it’s overstepping my bounds …”

GH: *a little nod, or something*

me: “You see, I saw you in New York City, with The Frames, and you didn’t play my favorite song.”

GH: (immediately, and with genuine interest): “Oh, what is it?”

me: “Fitzcarraldo.”

GH: (immediately, and once again with genuine interest) “I’ll play it on Wednesday, are you going to be there?”

me: “Yes!” *cower backwards a bit* “You have no idea how happy that will make me!”

GH: *searches his pockets and the table for something to write on and remind himself to play the song*

GH’s manager(?): *dismisses GH’s efforts* “I’ll remind you.”

GH: *Thanks his manager* *signs my CD*

me: *Blubbering about how I’ve seen him here and there, my employers met him in February at an awards ceremony (trying to get him to remember they told him about me, and he signed their booklet for me.)*

Jeremy: “She’s your biggest fan.”

me: *(internally- “oh no, not the biggest fan thing.”) More blubbering. This time about how I’ll follow him everywhere, I’ll even be in Dublin on August 8th and will look for him if that’s where he’ll be. Basically sounding like a stalker.*

GH’s manager(?)to GH: “You’ll be here in LA on August 8th.”

me: *(internally- “so much for that.”)*

*Jeremy and I walk away after saying bye. GH looks at me in the eye and tells me again he’ll be sure to play Fitzcarraldo on Wednesday. My heart is pounding and there is too much adrenaline. My mouth trips over my second goodbyes. I get out of the store as fast as I can.*

—–

I write this only because I can actually laugh about it. I hope that Mr. Hansard can realize that while a lot of his interactions with fans are like this (it’s not only me, right?!), we’re not all crazy. The moment is difficult. I wish I could keep composure. Maybe next time.

I left Amoeba positively elated (albeit, heart pounding). It had been a great night and I was essentially promised to hear my favorite song by my favorite artist, in just two short days. Fitzcarraldo was finally going to be experienced as it should be!

This is where you wait in great anticipation for part two! (Only because this post is long enough in its own right.)