Saturday, August 9, 2014


On Thursday night we went in to see Glen Hansard in concert (thanks, B&T) at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Hansard's first big break came in 2006 when the indie movie "Once," in which Hansard starred with Markéta Irglová, went viral. (They also starred in the documentary "The Swell Season," about the followup American tour.)

I was curious to see where Hansard had wound up in his musical evolution. While in "Once" Hansard plays an Irish folksinger and songwriter, there is in the sheer physical intensity of his performances something that seems to demand a larger venue, a bigger sound, a fuller orchestration. And that's primarily what was on display in Oakland. Hansard came on stage alone to do his first number, but was joined for most of the rest of the concert by eleven backup musicians (lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, keyboard, drums, two violins, a cello, a trombone, a trumpet, and sax). The repertoire ranged from a capella traditional Irish folk songs to his own compositions to punchy rhythm and blues. (The blues orientation of some of the show reminded me at times of the movie "The Commitments," which Hansard, I just discovered, also had a role in. The highlights of the show, from my point of view, were his versions of his own song "Her Mercy" and Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't Do It." These video versions don't quite capture the excitement of the live performance, but they give a flavor, and some sense of Hansard's delivery:

One of the tech enhancements that added to the concert was the light show, which was carefully coordinated with the instrumentation, and dramatically very effective, especially on the big power blues/rock numbers. I was impressed with the ambition of the show and the style with which it was carried off. What's perhaps most amazing is that Hansard at age 44 shows no signs of flagging. He went on at 9:15 and finished up after 11:30 after a five-song encore. It was a nonstop performance of amazing intensity and energy. I don't know how he does it.

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