The Swell Season concert

Just went to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Glen and Mar won the 2008 Oscar for Best Song for the tune “Falling Slowly,” featured in the John Carney-directed film “Once.” They both gave beautiful, heartfelt speeches at the Academy Awards, a breath of fresh air in this typically self-obsessed, self-congratulatory Hollywood affair.

First of all, the venue was amazing—it reminded me a bit of Lincoln Center—and of course makes Bob Carr look and sound like a landfill. Some chick opened up the set with some impressionistic piano pieces she had composed. Too bad they never announced what her name was and her name wasn’t listed on the program so who knows if I’ll ever figure out who she was.

Finally, Glen came onstage at 9:05 with the houselights on. He performed “Say It To Me Now” unplugged–in the mode of the opening credit sequence of the film–and it was a completely perfect way to begin the show. He was shortly joined by Marketa on the piano and the rest of the band. They played most of the songs from the film (including my favorites “Lies”, “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and of course “Falling Slowly”, several of the “Swell Season” songs and a few others I had never heard that were amazing.

The music was gorgeous, the acoustics in the room were wonderful, the mix was superb. It was completely worth it to spend my Delta SkyMiles and fly up for the evening to catch this show.

Glen truly knows how to engage the audience. He endearingly fumbles his way through the in-between-song banter, explaining certain metaphors in song lyrics and giving a running commentary on life and culture in the self-deprecating, angsty Irish way (He made a silly joke about E.T. and Protestants halfway through the set). It was a mix of the random, the poignant and the bluntly honest.

One of my favorite moments was when he was describing how life was kind of like him slamming up against the same wall over and over again and it absolutely won’t give, and so he did a 180 and start walking and before he knew it he had walked across the face of the earth and ended up on the other side of that wall. What a perfect way to describe his career… After 15 plus years of playing with The Frames with little recognition beyond Ireland, it’s this tiny film indie film “Once” that finally though unexpectedly launched him into “commercial” success.

Mar was more reticent than her counterpart (backstage, she apparently bet Glen $100 he couldn’t get through the entire set tonight without talking) and personality-wise it seems they couldn’t be more different, but when they sing and play together, they absolutely soar. Their voices blend seamlessly and they effortlessly anticipate each other’s nuances.

I only wish that Mar had sung and played something solo on the piano. I was hoping she would do “The Swell Season” or “The Hill” but no dice. Also, Stephanie and I were hoping Glen would sing “Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” during the encore but he didn’t. They did however close with Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” which I was very happy about.

Well right now I am running on about two shots of iced espresso, a cup of orange juice and a cup of Colombian and I still feel exhausted after catching a 7:20 a.m. flight this morning from Atlanta to Orlando but it was totally worth it.

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4 thoughts on “The Swell Season concert

  1. Rachel Grimes was listed as “support” for that show. It looks like they have a different person at each venue.

  2. Pingback: Begin Again: my movie review | randomness and ruminations

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