When I told Stu Gotz about my going to see "The Swell
Season" with my BFF, he simply seemed perplexed at who they
were. So I explained to him that they are comprised of the
duo from the movie
"Once," among other members, and he
replied back, "Oh, that should be nice. What, are they
playing Schubaís (a 200 capacity venue in Chicago) or
someplace like that?" Imagine the stunned look on his face
when I told him I was seeing them at the beautiful Chicago
Theatre, on the third and final night of a sold-out stint.
Iím not sure why Stu was so shocked, I mean they are Academy
Award winners after all, and as much as I keep impressing on
Stu, or anyone I can, to put the movie "Once" high in his
Netflix queue, Iím guessing if he had seen the movie he
would start to understand their appeal, and knowing Stu, he
would also really like the music.
The Swell Season
A Concert Review
But, if you have seen "Once," and if you really like the
music from the movie, the concert experience for "The Swell
Season" expands on that appreciation a hundred-fold.
So, my BFF and I make our way to our seats and out comes
the opening act, a solo Brendan OíShea, who makes it known
that he really likes Chicago, which, of course, goes over
well for the crowd, and then he proceeds to do a great job
of being in awe of playing in front of 3,500+ people, yet
still giving a performance with the intimacy of a coffee
house. This he accomplished with some witty banter between
Irish-tinged folk songs, and I apologize if I screw up some
of the song titles, but I really enjoyed "Steps" (with some
nice crowd participation simply via humming), "Sunday Summer
Parade," "Smoke," and the quaint "Waiting Rooms." The crowd
seemed to really like him, and I was only bummed because I
didnít get a chance to pick up one of his CDís he was
selling out in the lobby, especially since he mentioned he
had some copies of AC/DC for sale (if you see him, you get
the joke)! Itís Two Thumbs Up for Brendan OíShea, and Iíll
be sure to put his name on my music radar.
But this crowd was there to see "The Swell Season,"
(well, except for maybe the girl a few chairs down from me
who seemed to do a lot of texting during the show), but the
lights went down and out came Glen Hansard, solo, acoustic,
doing "Say It To Me Now," in the same way you might have
seen him on a street corner many years ago. Then Marketa
Irglova came out to help with "All the Way Down," and
finally the rest of the band comes out as "Lies" helped
develop the evening into a night of songs you might only
know from the "Once" soundtrack, mixed with others that
range from songs from The Frames, a Van Morrison cover, and
a big olí sing-a-long that an old dude wanted no part of.
So the night continued, with songs like "Moon," a
fantastical version of "When Your Mindís Made Up" (probably
my favoritist song from the movie), and Marketa in full
"shyness" mode yet doing a fine job with her new song "I
Loved You Wrong," which I found had too much bass going on
but loved the ending of the song. Then, of course, came the
song everyone was waiting for, yet a tad bizarre. Yup, Glen
went into a story about selling your child, or creating a
child and letting it go, how they are still amazed at the
response, etc., and they broke into "Falling Slowly." But
then Glen got confused about the words, referenced Barack
Obama being at the show (although Iím still trying to get
clarification of this fact, however, it seems most fans of
"The Swell Season" are fans of Senator Obama in
any case), and standing
ovations were all around!
Presidential candidate possibly attending aside, in his
introduction for "Lay Me Down," Glen reflected on his being
a teenager, wanting to be a singer, being fascinated with
"Freaks & Geeks," and a sweet story how he was trying to
impress a girl, took her to the cemetery, and asked "Would
you be buried beside me?", which made for lots of "Ohhhhs"
from the crowd. But sentimental feelings were quickly put
aside as only one word can describe Glen Hansardís cover of
Van Morrisonís "Astral Weeks," and that word is "Damn!"
So a couple of the previous songs were Glen, all alone on
the stage, but then the band returned for, what Glen said,
would be a song that they had never played live before, and
the cheesy-keyboard backing track led into a fun version of
"Fallen from the Sky," but a new song, "Happiness," put Glen
in full "conductor" mode, recreating a Tarot Card "Fool,"
and "Once" finished out the main set.
Encore time (though sort of more a short, second set),
brought Matketa lovingly, singing "If You Want Me," Colm
MacConlomaire, the violin dude, getting a solo stint
"putting together his own band," and I really liked "Fitzcarraldo,"
an older song from Glenís days with The Frames, but a new
song for me.
And what better way to end a great night of music than
with a sing-a-long, and for this night Glen, Marketa, and
the boys in the band brought out
"The Auld Triangle," even bringing
up an older dude from the audience to help with the
sing-a-long, but given his chance to skedaddle, said older
dude got out of Dodge, or at least off of the stage, as
quick as could be when Glen turned his back, but thatís okay
because the crowd loved it, Glen loved it, and the crowd
easily picked up on their part, namely, "And that old
triangle went jingle jangle, Along the banks of the Royal
So, a night of Irishness came to a close, (Okay, fine
Jackie Moonís "Love Me Sexy" isnít exactly Irishness, but
that was the song the soundboard folks pumped through the
speakers as the crowd, myself, and my BFF, filtered out of
the theater Ė Kudos to you soundboard dudes!) and a great
night of Irishness it was!
I think you can gather from the review that I thought the
music was great, but the other, interesting thing about the
night was Glen trying to explain a lot of the songs,
although sometimes I still have no idea what he was talking
about. For example, his ramblings about the song "Moon"
still have me scratching my head, but that doesnít matter
because I think that is really part of the charm of Glen,
and Marketa for that matter, in that, even with the success
they have had, they still seem shocked, amazed, and humbled,
by the support their fans are giving them.
I canít speak for my BFF, although I should probably have
asked her what thumb rating she would be giving the show,
but I loved every soft moment, I loved every crescendo, and
even though some of the stories about the songs didnít make
sense, might have been disjointed, and who in the hell did
Sam like on "Freaks & Geeks?", "The Swell Season"
re-reminded me of the many reasons I love going to concerts.
Itís TWO HUGEMOUNGOUS THUMBS UP! for The Swell Season.
Thatís it for this one! Iím The Dude on the Right!!