Everything that led to our seeing Glen Hansard last Friday amounted to a series of fairly unfortunate events. We missed the opener (The Lost Brothers) entirely, and maybe the first 20 or so minutes of Glen’s performance. It was so crowded that when we did finally get inside, we didn’t make it more than five steps in before stopping out of necessity. That said, we couldn’t even see him all that well from where we were. And a few of those around us seemed more interested in the sounds of their own voices than all Glen had to say and sing.
That’s the bad stuff, though. Those’ll happen. Here’s some of what made it an experience to remember.
There might be a few out there who still say “Glen who?” when you mention this red bushy bearded man’s name, but he’s come a considerably long way since busking street corners in Ireland. He did that one film you may know (“Once”), won that one Oscar for a song in it, has been part of The Frames for 25 years running, toured for years as The Swell Season and is now just fine doing concerts under his own name. In short, Glen Hansard’s not doing so badly for himself. Orlando’s one of the few cities on the schedule that he didn’t sell out, but it had to have been mighty close.
Luckily, this man has been blessed with two pretty colossal lungs and a monster of a voice that can carry far beyond the stage. When he opens up and sings songs like “When Your Mind’s Made Up” or “Say It To Me Now” or one of his carefully chosen Van Morrison covers, he can shake the rafters and wake up old folks on the other side of town. He can yell and scream and do both at the same time. On the receiving end, you’re able to hear sincerity and ferocity and pain. Swirl it all together in one recipe and you respond in kind. You want to shout and clap. You want more, more, more.
I sort of knew all of that going in, I did. It’s why I wanted to see him as badly as I did, why I pushed all else aside in order to witness his undimmed spectacle of a performance. I’m among those who’ve seen him before. I’ve seen the movie, worn out the soundtrack, tried to sing along to his songs, even traveled to Denver just to see him a first time and shake his hand and end up wanting to drink beers with him and stuff. For those who’d not seen him, though, they got a show as electrifying as the one I’d seen him do in, oh, 2008 or so. If there was a time for him to rest on his laurels—or just rest period—now might be a good time for him to get away with it … but he hasn’t. And it seems he won’t, either. Not anytime soon.
And then, surprise of all surprises, he did something I’d never seen him do. He started pointing at audience members, asking them to climb aboard the Glen Hansard ship and sing with him as his background singers for a number. There was one among those who rose above the rest—a 23-year-old Victoria— and he liked her so much, he kept her around for a couple more songs. She was all kinds of nervous, but that didn’t matter terribly. She was able to belt out her side of “Falling Slowly” like a true champion, and the audience was on her side as well. The cheering for her at least matched all the loudest yells Glen had received all night. Well deserved, too. When the spotlight shines brightly on you, direct it to the others who could use some of that as well.
And that was the moment that made the whole show for me. All the bad things leading up to actually getting there outright faded away. The fact Mr. Hansard was able make a packed Beacham feel like an intimate sing-a-long around a campfire, that was one of his best magic hat tricks of the whole evening. Even the final Irish folk tune of an encore that the band took turns singing, calling on a loud Irishman in the crowd to belt a verse out, too, even that didn’t beat what we’d witnessed with Victoria and Glen’s mini-show within a show. It did come close (and dangerously so, at that), but we should have expected that.
REGGAE RISE UP MUSIC FESTIVAL
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