September 30, 2016
Los Angeles, CA USA
Review by J. Matthew Nespoli
Photos by Rea Ricafort
Glen Hansard Crushes It ONCE Again!
In an age when every kid with a hint of talent soullessly seeks fame on televised singing shows, and an endless stream of dispassionate pop performers fill stadiums without ever showing their fans a whiff anything real, beloved folk rocker, Glen Hansard, steps on stage, night after night, rips his chest open, bleeds all over the stage, and shows us his heart engulfed in flames. Last night, at The Wiltern, in Los Angeles, Glen took the stage with a cellist, two violinists, and a stand up double bass. The only thing missing was his trademark Takamine NP15 guitar with the large friction hole worn in it's cedar face from being played too hard, for too long, over the last 20 years.
Glen really connected with his fans on the opening number, "You Will Become," a love song sharing beautiful sentiments of confidence in the one he loves. Glen had everyone swaying in unison, filling the building with promise and positive energy.
Glen's set continued with the heartfelt number "Gold," country flavored tune, "Winning Streak," and the pensive, "My Little Ruin." Next, he brought the house down by plucking the first two notes of "When Your Mind's Made Up," from his break-out indie film in 2006, "Once." On the guitar solo Glen filled the crowd with frantic energy, playing so hard that it seemed inevitable that he'd blast a whole through the face of yet another guitar. After the solo he abruptly changed pace and gently rocked the audience back to a calm state of bliss with the last chorus.
While performing, Glen's essence is raw energy, so powerful that it sucks everyone into his headspace, bringing truth and understanding to the lyrics he belts out with a stout and beautiful voice. Between songs, Glen switches gears and takes on the persona of a natural storyteller, giving the crowd a chance to laugh and breathe and gather themselves before he slays them with another monster rocker. On this night, he told humorous stories about his father, comparing his father to Jesus in a pub, he made fun of Coachella and people willing to pay $4,000 for a ticket to stand a hundred yards from stage in 100 degree heat, he reminisced about visiting the Woody Guthrie Center and being blessed with the opportunity to look at the man's "tools," and he told a funny and heart-felt story about admiring a girl from a safe distance at a pub, for quite some time, and then helping the girl's ex-boyfriend, who recognized Glen, write a song to help win her back.
And it didn't work. But it did work when Glen performed that song, "Renata," for the packed house at The Wiltern.
Glen is not only gifted in voice and with his nimble fingers, but he is gifted in the way he can deliver songs with a light wistful touch like he did with "Star Star," and then change pace the next song and deliver something with beautiful awe-inspiring heft, like "Falling Slowly."
Glen killed it all night long with songs like "Paying My Way," "Bird of Sorrow," "Wedding Ring" where he gave his vocal chords a rest during the chorus to enjoy the chops of the crooners in The Wiltern's crowd. Glen performed, "Way Back in the Way Back When," "McCormick's Wall," "Lowly Deserter," "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting," "Stay the Road," "Ashes to Ashes," and "Her Mercy." He treated everyone to "Say It To Me Now" from Swell Season, his folk rock duo with Marketa Irglova, and he covered Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks," David Bowe's "Ashes to Ashes," the chorus of Aretha Franklin's "Respect," and Woodie Guthrie's "Vigilante Man" changing some of the lyrics to reflect the current state of American politics. Before performing his rendition of the Irish folk song, "Colm's Tune," he requested Irish Whiskeys for everyone in the band. As the folksy song was performed, The Wiltern began to feel like a giant, festive, Irish wedding. The bar was packed with inspired fans wanting Irish whiskey, several of them wearing festive Irish kilts.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the night was during the first of two encores, when Glen took everyone for a ride to way-back-when, in his time machine, and gave the crowd a painful, bile-soaked version of "Say It To Me Now." When he pulled out his old stand-by, the Takamine NP15 with the celebrated hole in the guitar's cedar face, the crowd nearly detonated with excitement. Holding back nothing, he belted out, with vitriol and a faint undertone of hope, "Cause this is what you've waited for. A chance to even up the score...," his face turned an impossible shade of red, and the crowd went wild, feeling Glen's pain, anger, and love teetering on hate.
For the final song of the night, Glen, and the beautiful six piece string band, all unplugged, stepped to the edge of the stage, away from the microphones, and did a beautiful rendition of "Song of Good Hope" ending it with a beautiful violin solo, which poured out the last bit of raw emotion Glen and the band had to offer, leaving The Wiltern with not a dry eye in the room.