MUSIC REVIEW | Glen Hansard learns the local flavor at First Avenue


My husband scored tickets to Glen Hansard because they are both from Dublin. Stuff like that apparently happens when you’re Irish. I walked into the Glen Hansard show at First Avenue last Saturday, September 29 just being able to hum “Falling Slowly”—Hansard’s song from the movie Once that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2007. But I left a much more dedicated fan. 

Hansard was there promoting his new album Rhythm and Repose. So he played a lot of new soulful music teamed with some amazing covers. His voice is sultry, in a decidedly masculine way. He played a number of solos, one song he played unplugged (he literally unplugged the guitar, walked away from the mic to the front of the stage and played a song to a very full, very appreciative crowd). Everyone seemed to hold their breath to keep quiet and focus on the music.

Juxtapose that to the cheering and singing along when, backed by almost a dozen musicians, he played Prince’s “Sign of the Times.” Hansard mentioned that he and the band had learned the song that afternoon in honor of the hometown hero. It sounds like he may often do that in the touring towns—pick up a new song of local flavor. Who does that? Someone who clearly has a passion for what he does. And it was fun to see how the passion extends to his fellow musicians and the audience.

Hansard explained that it was fun to play to the tribe and not just a regular audience. An audience, he explained, appluads when they are supposed to react when they are supposed to, a tribe just gets into it. The crowd on Saturday was definitely into it.

One highlight from the Irish corner of our concert party was Hansard’s cover of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks.” For me the highlight was his cover of The Band song “The Weight,” which was the grand finale. Each verse sung by a different musician. It was a crowd pleaser in part because Hansard made it seem like an indulgence for him to be able to play with the musicians on stage for the audience in the crowd just for that night. 

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