Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard really paid his doting Toronto audience quite the treat on Sunday night. The man who’s clearly born to be a performer, hurtled through two hours and at the end, it seemed like he was only just warmed up.
But let’s take it from the beginning.
I sat down in my seat on the balcony at the Danforth Music Hall after Tony Dekker’s set. I noticed that the little wall in front of my row was practically at my eye level. Good, I thought. I’ve been meaning to work on my posture. (As I write this later, I am hunched over.) In comes the drunk Irish guy, who sat next to me. He carried a drink and started talking to me about how he wished he wasn’t there, that he was dragged along by a female and that he might as well be pissing into the wind. He moaned and groaned about having to sit through the show.
The lights went down, screams rang out through the hall and out walked Glen with a full band. As soon as they get through the first song, I think Wow. I wish his recordings included a full band. That would have made his new album a lot more interesting. The music sounds so full of life. I’ve been a fan of Glen’s music for years, seemingly one of my longest lasting musical interests in a time period that has me with a short attention span. I’ve loved him more with Marketa Irglova, aka when they were The Swell Season, or, that cute but melancholy couple in Once. He’s even one of the few artists I can still listen to after finding out he’s really not the super friendly person he seems all the time, especially after seeing the self titled documentary on The Swell Season that came out this year. Anyways, he’s human, and he put out his first solo album ever this year, Rhythm and Repose. It’s simple and showcases his great songwriting. If you want to know Glen as an artist, you have to see him live. And this was the most fun I’ve ever seen him have on stage. Drunk Irish Guy Next To Me was totally into it a few songs in, clapping ferociously, saying Wonderful! Classic! Wow, what a guy!
Glen played his new material with mostly with the band but he did do a few on his own in the middle of the set. He also played Swell Season songs, which I felt weird about seeing them performed without Marketa. A lot of the songs bleeds together, but each song has a recognizable chorus or charm to it that brings you right back, and it’s so lovingly haunting when he can get an entire hall to sing with him. There were eleven people on stage at the most, with horns, strings, the whole shebang. Glen did a great job as front man. He didn’t do much of his classic storytelling while introducing songs, but he did wittily answer a lot of shout-out questions from the audience who didn’t hold back, such as “WHO DID YOUR ALBUM COVER?” “An Irish painter, he came and painted me on a Saturday at 9 a.m. when I was hungover.” “FOUR MORE YEARS FOUR MORE YEARS” “[Goes on spiel about voting and how you have to vote for Obama.]” Et cetera. He’d joke and crack remarks about Toronto. He even invited a friend’s girl to come sing with him as well as Toronto singer/songwriter Peter Katz to come play a very personal song with the entire band. Glen did a few covers, including Van Morrison and Martin Gaye songs. At some point during all of this, Drunk Irish Guy Next to Me asked me how gay it all was and left to get more drinks/pee/smoke about a million times. But I know he still loved Glen. The show ended with the band playing while walking around the audience on the floor in a Canadian folk sing-a-long that truthfully, this Can-Am doesn’t know what song it was.
But I do know Glen’s music, and this was an amazing concert of his to see. I’m glad he went with the full band, giving his songs even more oomph. He’s got a boyish charm but for a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he’s always endlessly entertaining, and clearly won over one very drunk guy, so, job well done.