It only took me one viewing of 2006′s “Once”, starring Glen Hansard and former bandmate/girlfriend Marketa Irglova, to get hooked on Hansard’s signature brand of folk-rock. A recent trip to Dublin quickly evolved into a “Once tour” as I spent my days wandering through the city, searching for the locales that appeared in the film. When I learned while watching the film for the fifth or sixth time in my Dublin hotel room that Hansard was making his way to Chicago to tour behind “Rhythm and Repose”, I immediately bought myself a ticket.
Glen Hansard knows Chicago well and tours here often; at one point during the show he recited an impressive litany of the Chicagoland locales he has played. Prior to attending this concert, I had already seen him a handful of times in the area—with Irglova, the Frames, and opening for Eddie Vedder at the Chicago Theater last summer. It seems that Hansard truly draws something from the atmosphere here, a truth to which he attested while bantering with the audience early on in his set.
No Glen Hansard concert is ever a disappointment, but last night’s show at the Vic topped any previous performance that I have seen. The concert’s success can doubtless be attributed to the venue and the audience (the Vic was packed to the rafters with diehard fans), as well as to Hansard’s showmanship, honed during years of busking and playing in bars early in his career. It is also likely, however, that Hansard’s newfound mindset markedly improved an already-formidable show: according to The New York Times, he has been attempting to slow the pace of his frenetic lifestyle. It’s working. “I’m not in any hurry tonight,” Hansard told the crowd to raucous applause, and he was true to his word: his set clocked in at over two hours and featured, in addition to the songs of “Rhythm and Repose”, the music of the Frames, the Swell Season, and covers of the Band, Van Morrison, and Mic Christopher.
What was most remarkable about this particular show, however, was its collaborative and inclusive atmosphere. Not only did Hansard share the stage with opener Lisa Hannigan, but he also opened the show up to the young talent present in the audience. Eleven-year-old Ethan, whom Hansard invited onstage years ago after watching a video of him covering “Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”, made a return appearance for a solo keyboard cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” before reprising “Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” with Hansard on guitar. Fredo took the stage to play lead guitar for “Gold” and to duet with Hansard on “Say It To Me Now”. Hansard was content to let these young performers’ talents take center stage and was just as appreciative of their skill as his audience.
The atmosphere of collaboration continued through the concert to Hansard’s final song (and second encore), Irish standard “The Auld Triangle”. Each band mate took a verse, the audience joining in on the chorus as Hansard exhorted us to sing more loudly (“If you’re drunk, it will help; if you’re not drunk—pretend!”).
Oh, and the highlight of the entire show: Glen’s shout-out to WXRT during “In These Arms”: “There’s a voice singing loudly on XRT just for you”. I did feel that Glen truly was singing loudly just for us last night. Thanks, Glen, for a wonderful show.
Glen Hansard Live From Studio X