Usually to go and watch someone perform three nights in a row you have got to be a massive fan, or they have to be an amazing live act. This week I had the pleasure of seeing the magnificent Glen Hansard play three times, with each show getting more grandiose than the next. I use the word grandiose, but it would not be something I would use to describe Glen himself. He is charismatic, caring, thoughtful and a very emotionally interesting character. His songs tug right at the heart strings and his power can encompass a whole room.
The first show was at the record store Concerto for an intimate in store performance. This place is tiny and Glen continually tried to enable more people to fit in, just so everyone could experience the show a little bit. He played and talked for about 50 min and just seemed to be enjoying life and being there. He also offered his wine to anyone with a glass and after the show signed merch’ and chattered to anyone that patient enough to wait.
Stepping up from there we ventured to a church on the Princengracht known as De Duif (The Dove). This was a protestant church (as Glen pointed out a number of times) which allowed him a few more performance freedoms then when he plays (all be it occasionally) in a Catholic Church.
I was seated quite close to the front and whilst he did stand on a stage it didn’t feel exactly like a normal concert performance. Maybe it was all the religious statues and paintings adorning the church which gave it a more spiritual feel, and his songs did feel like he was reaching the souls of the masses.
Accompany that, at one point he handed out a bottle of wine to the people in the front row, along with some glasses professing that he had just made the bottle never ending, it was his understanding of his surrounds that just made you laugh. He belted out great versions of some Swell Season tracks, along with a Van Morrison song, which allows you to see firsthand how he could possibly wear so many holes in his acoustic guitar. He also played a song he had written for the Hunger Games movie and his cover of The Night they Drove old Dixie Down which was perfect. Towards the end of the performance I moved to the back of the church and it was there that I found it really hard not to feel we were in an old church, people were watching in awe of the scriptures he was delivering.
His Irish lilt and very engaging banter (usually followed by a smile or a laugh) are infectious, you can’t help but like it, and him for that matter. He seems to have empathy for everyone and just wants them to have the best experience.
On night two he played for the best part of two hours and twenty minutes, the crowed couldn’t have asked for more. It would have been hot as hell onstage (pardon the pun) and he was dripping with sweat but no one dared leave, not when in the grace of a performance like this. And whilst some of his stories were the same as the previous night they were still great and for the last song he encouraged a stranger to play the piano that was there and for a friend of his to play the pipe organ and somehow this impromptu jam just worked, as you somehow knew it would, maybe it was the luck of the Irish.
The third night Glen was as the support act for Eddie Vedder. He took the stage at the magnificent Carré Theater, this time however not adorned with his trademark black waist coat but still carrying his beaten-up guitar and his beaming Irish smile. Funnily enough I believe that this was actually the one time that the crowd was genuinely taken aback as to how good he was and that they clearly were not expecting it. There were several times that loud whoops and hollers rang out at Glen hit his mark, it was great to see, a new group of patrons enjoying the Glen Hansard musical experience.
He did reduce the banter with the crowd a little (not totally mind you) but I think as his time was limited he just needed to play, and play he did. He covered off on a best of the previous two nights in a set that was well tailored to the crowd. The Van Morrison cover nearly got a standing ovation. I waited and hoped that Eddie would stroll out, and join him center stage but alas this did not happen, I felt disappointed, but still his performance had been so good that I was just been selfish.
Then it was Eddie’s time to play and the crowd soaked it all in. At the end of his set he asked Glen to join him on stage for a few songs - I was now in musical heaven! They sang 3 songs together, one of which was of Eddies Ukulele album which he had got Glen to sing on and the other was a version of Falling which is a Swell Season (one of Glens other bands) song and whilst it wasn’t performed with Markéta Irglová, her mother and father were in the crowd to see it, so it seemed a tad bit special for Glen & Eddie. The evening rounder out with Glen singing backup vocals for Eddie, with a large smile beaming across his face.
So, I was lucky enough to see Glen Hansard play three nights in a row. Never once did I want the evenings to end, he is an amazingly charismatic talented performer, who, if you have never seen play live, then you have missed something very special.