Friday, May 21, 2010

The Swell Season @ The Orange Peel 05.20.10

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first concert at the Orange Peel Social Aid & Pleasure Club in Asheville, NC. I can't attest to what the "Social Aid" is supposed to be other than attending a great show with friends, but The Swell Season more than did their part in providing the pleasure. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova played songs from their last album Strict Joy as well as familiar tunes from the Once soundtrack to a delighted audience. The two switched off on acoustic guitar and piano and were backed by a 4 piece band. Irglova's lead vocals opened the show but Hansard sang the bulk of the songs; I don't mean to diminish Irglova or the fragile beauty of her songs but it was Hansard the crowd came to see.

The singer couldn't have been a more engaging presence, warmly praising the city and recounting his day in between singing in his trademark head-about-to-explode style. Hansard onstage wants to expand the boundaries of what's possible with each song; to turn both old favorites and new tunes like "Low Rising" and "Feeling The Pull" into moments of joy, communion, and even healing. You'd think he'd get tired or phone one in after awhile, but the fact that he didn't is why this review sounds like a gush. His solo cover of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" was a highlight of the evening and maybe the greatest live musical moment I've ever seen. Hansard honors the original and at once makes the song his own. The video above is not from last night but you'll get the idea.


Mike said...

Glen Hansard is indeed a great talent. However, I happen to be one of many who thinks that Marketa also is a special talent. Perhaps her fragile voice is not geared for large concert halls but every song in the motion picture, "Once," in which she had a hand provided magic moments.

Simon Crowe said...

Thanks for the comment, I don't disagree with any of that. I'm not entirely happy that I couldn't think of more to say about Marketa; it wasn't my intention to slight her, though I'd agree that Once is the best showcase to date for her talents.

Mike said...

I have attended two Swell Season concerts. The first one was during one of the pair's American tours after the release of the motion picture. The other was after the release of "Strict Joy." Though both were excellent concerts, I was disappointed that Marketa's role during the second tour was substantially reduced (as compared to the first). In my judgment, "The Hill" and "If You Want Me" -- two songs for which she is given paramount credit -- should be a part of every concert. In the first concert I attended, she sang both songs. The audience was so attentive during "The Hill" you could hear a pin drop.