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Review: Glen Hansard in Auckland

BRIDGET JONEMarch 13 – Auckland Town Hall

“He’s the one from that movie.  You know, the thing about a guy and a girl, who meet and make an album, fall in love but don’t really get together.  They won an Oscar for it.  Oh come on, he’s got a ginger beard.”

That is a conversation had many times in the lead up to Irish musician Glen Hansard’s one-off New Zealand show as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.

His name is widely unknown, so is his 20-odd year career with band The Frames.  But thanks to the 2006 musical film Once, Hansard’s voice has been catapulted into the spotlight on the back of a remarkable performance both as a storyteller and, of course, as a musician.

And it was the songs from this film, and his subsequent work with co-star (and one-time real-life love Markéta Irglová) under the Swell Season banner, which drew the crowds to Auckland’s Town Hall last night.

But they got a whole lot more than a soundtrack jukebox.

Accompanied by his long-time band mates The Frames, Hansard delivered a set covering everything from those lusted after movie sounds like When Your Mind’s Made Up and Leave, right through to a bit of Aretha Franklin and Philander, a song he wrote 24 years ago about love.  Or obsession.  Or the hunt to find new rooms to “be alone in” as an 18-year-old in lust.

Like the stereotype of his countrymen, Hansard is a king storyteller.  Weaving from easy laughs about boats and beards, to touching tales of family and friends, he has the audience – and his band mates – thoroughly entertained for more than two hours.

But it was the music and the emotion that really stuck.

Should you kiss the person next to you?  Should you cry like a baby?  Is it time to jump out of your seat and stomp the floor in ecstasy?  Or should you just give in to the waves of goosebumps washing over your entire body again and again and again?

Of course, anyone who has opened an ear to his music knows there is something of a pattern to Hansard’s song writing – it goes a little like “quiet, loud, louder, bloody maniacal, whispery quiet, done”.

And as he said himself, the venue coped far better with the softer moments, a prime example being the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly performed with support act Lisa Hannigan, which actually had couples waltzing in the aisles.  But the pure passion in his almost-screams was captivating along the way.Advertisement

Anyway, when something is executed with near-perfection, a little predictability is a fine thing occasionally.

– © Fairfax NZ News