- 21 Dec 15
The by-now traditional knees-up on Thomas St. has become the thing of legend; and, once again, Hot Press was on hand for another energetic, inspiring night with the charismatic troubadour
Our lady with the lens Kathrin Baumbach was front and centre to capture the action; check out the photo gallery here.
Like the yearly catch-up with Auntie Iris over mulled wine and mince pies, the annual arrival of Glen Hansard at Vicar Street offers a chance to see what's changed over 12 months.
For one, there's a few more grey flecks poking through. His famous guitar is a bit more bruised than before, now approaching the point where it's more hole than guitar. Oh, and he has a new record.
Granted, we'd had a sneak preview of cuts from Didn't He Ramble this time last year, but now those tracks, fully formed and assuredly polished, sit comfortably within the career spanning set. The evening opens with an intimate take on 'Grace Beneath The Pines', with the microphone eschewed and just a string section for company, but it's not long before the band strikes up and we're in altogether more traditional territory - even if 'Winning Streak' arrives a little countrified, more 'howdy' than 'howya'.
Though 'When Your Mind's Made Up' peaks with a towering crescendo, some of his biggest tunes get a decidedly more delicate treatment; 'Falling Slowly' and 'Revelate' soft, solo affairs. Sandwiched between is a cover of Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks', in which a little more damage is done to the guitar. If Eric Clapton is renowned for looking like he was born with a guitar in his hands, at times Glen looks as though he's never seen one before, doesn't trust it, and feels battering it into submission is the best course of action. He's bloody good at it though.
He also remains a dab hand at spinning a yarn, probably best showcased here when he explains 'McCormack's Wall' as being inspired by a night spent with the evening's support act, Lisa O'Neill. When O'Neill emerges towards the end of the night to give her take, the awkwardness is truly delicious.
That, of course, is another feature you can bank on; when Glen performs at home, it's not alone. So, once 'This Gift' is dispatched with energetic aplomb, the encore sees the backstage emptied. Bitch Falcon are something of a surprise, but a joint rendition of Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind' proves them to be an inspired choice. Mark Geary pops up for a tune, as does the aforementioned O'Neill, whose take on 'Raglan Road' is followed by a predictable full-voiced, 1000-strong go at 'The Auld Triangle'. That, of course, is as much a staple of Hansard gigs as the stories and the guitar. Legend has it that, a bit like Beetlejuice, if you stand in front of the mirror and sing three verses of 'The Auld Triangle' Glen will appear to sing the fourth.
But there's comfort in the familiar, and nothing is as familiar to the faithful - some of whom have travelled from the continent to be part of the evening - as the warmth and character of these pre-Christmas celebrations. 'Her Mercy' finishes proceedings on a high, a reminder once more of the strength of his new collection, while simultaneously underlining there's no other Irish act who can lead an evening quite like this.
So ramble away, Glen, wherever the road might take you. Just as long as you always come home.