- 16 Aug 17
Time and time again, Glen Hansard has proved himself to be a folk troubadour who can win over crowds and give them a hell of a lot more than they bargained for. In a 3-hour set that went from glorious, crescendoing folk rock to concertina-led intimate Irish ballads, Hansard’s symphonic, many-faceted exploration of his career was a wonder to behold.
“Hello and welcome to the Nathan Carter Show,” Glen laughs, as he introduces his second song of the night, ‘Winning Streak’. It’s the first of several great one-liners from a man who has crowd-interaction down to a tee. “This is probably playing right now somewhere on Dame Street,” he says three songs later as he leads into ‘Falling Slowly’, his Academy Award-winning song (it must never get tiring saying that) from Once.
But wisecracks aside, the shape-shifting Glen makes his incredible musicianship the centrepiece of the night. The 47-year old singer seems to have mastered the technique of penning long-enduring folk songs. They’ll be sung for generations to come, no doubt, but they’ll always sound at their best coming from him.
The opening act of the night is packed with more recent songs from Glen’s two solo LPs, Rhythm and Repose and Didn’t He Ramble. The passion is evident on his face, and it exudes from the band too, made up of Una O’Kane, Katie O’Connor and Paula Hughes on strings, Joseph Doyle on bass and Ruth O’Mahony-Brady on keys.
The second act is more of a lyrically eclectic mix. Taking himself to the piano, Glen references the Apollo House occupation back in December/January and confesses his optimistic naivety, before singing a truly heartfelt song (‘Shelter Me’) dedicated to a homeless he met during the experience named Tom. Following this, Glen pays tribute to Woodrie Guthrie (a figure who seems to be taking more and more precedence in Hansard’s work), with a smart, explicitly anti-Trump reworking of ‘Vigilante Man’, followed up with a call-and-response rendition of his own song ‘Way Back In The Way Back When’.
The next act is a decidedly more rock-based affair where energetic Frames numbers such as ‘Revelate’, ‘Friends and Foe’ and 'Santa Maria’ take centre stage. Glen steps into his role as rock star frontman with flare and gusto, before settling down by the piano once again for a bluesy rendition of ‘Wedding Ring’.
But the midway act is arguably the most special of the night. Glen Hansard is joined on stage by concertina extraordinaire, Breanndan O’Beaglaoich, for a series of Irish songs/poems in commemoration of their friend, Kerryman Danny Sheehy, who died on a fishing voyage just a few short months ago. A particularly haunting rendition of ‘The Foggy Dew’ put shivers down this reviewer’s spine, even all the way from the Vicar Street balcony, while a wry/rye reading of Sheehy's poem in celebration of whiskey sent me running for the bar.
There's time for several more covers as the set enters its final act. Glen kindly invites support group Mongoose onto the stage to sing Phil Lynott’s ‘Old Town’, before he himself pays tribute to the late Fergus O’Farrell by singing Interference’s ‘Dark Days’.
The rousing crescendo of The Frames’ ‘Fitzcarraldo’ would’ve made you certain it was Glen’s final song of the night, but defying the Vicar St clean-up crew (surely getting impatient now, this being 2 and three-quarters hours in!), Hansard and band return for two more. A cover of dEUS’ ‘Hotellounge' – where fellow Frame and backing bassist Joe Doyle gets pride of place – which then bleeds into Willy Wonka’s ‘Pure Imagination’ (don’t ask) before settling on Sparklehorse’s ‘Most Beautiful Widow In Town’.
It’s nearly midnight by the time we’ve finally shuffled out of Vicar St. But bedtimes be damned, Glen Hansard is a phenomenal Irish legend. Long may he continue.