Her Majesty’s Theatre, Thu 20 October
As folks find their way to their seats, there seems to be a dark and brooding sensibility in Her Majesty’s Theatre this evening. This is partly because Glen Hansard is in the house, but mostly because the lights are dimmed. The show begins at the advertised time, and Hansard and his fellow musicians appear to warm applause. He counts in a rather lovely string introduction to Just To Be The One, from his latest album, entitled Didn’t He Ramble.
Hansard is obviously in very good spirits, as he generously welcomes the slew of latecomers, despite them not being able to show the artist the simple respect of arriving on time.
After three songs from the new record, Hansard goes straight into When Your Mind’s Made Up, a wonderful song from 2007’s Once soundtrack. This is followed by a suspiciously spontaneous and played-for-laughs version of Elvis’ Suspicious Minds.
Hansard is well-supported. As well as the three-piece string and horn sections, there’s piano/keyboards, bass, electric guitar and drums. It’s a very big sound, when it chooses to be.
Hansard jokes and chats, rambles even, tells drinking stories about “Drunkles”, stolen Merlot, his Dad, and about falling in and out of love.
The sequencing of Bird Of Sorrow, Renata and Wedding Ring provides a shining example of the variety of arrangements for the evening’s music.
Lyrically, songs like Paying My Way and Way Back In The Way Back When display that there’s much to be taken from Hansard’s words, a fact that is amplified when these numbers share the setlist with the peerless Woody Guthrie’s Vigilante Man (featuring slightly updated lyrics).
Musically, the show covers much ground. Hansard himself plays acoustic and electric guitars, piano, ukulele and mandolin. There are pop-rock songs, others are driven by the strings or the brass sections, while many are based around the Celtic-tinged acoustic sound that Hansard is notably associated with. There’s even a stab at Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, complete with an attempted singalong section, and a dedication to the late Gene Wilder in Star Star/Pure Imagination, which first appeared on The Frames’ 2003 Set List LP.
The main part of the program concludes with another song from Once, possibly the best known, Falling Slowly. Cue a standing ovation.
The extended encore again showcases the variety and scope of the songs and musicians; there are full band arrangements, and a nice duet between Hansard and his sax player. Yet the strongest moments are reserved for Hansard as he performs alone, sometimes completely unplugged. The evening finishes with The Song Of Good Hope, another unplugged rendition, this time featuring the full band.
This has been a consummate two-and-a-quarter hour performance by eleven extremely talented musicians, but it is Hansard’s songs, voice, and guitar that underline the show. Most of all, it is his passion that is the key. We can only hope that his fire burns for a while yet.
by David Robinson
Images courtesy of Conor Masterson