Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Published in the Irish World newspaper 06/02/2013
Glen Hansard recently played The Barbican in London. Leah Quinn went along to see if she might start falling slowly for the performer’s live music as well as his recorded material.


You may be familiar with Glen Hansard for a variety of reasons. Maybe you first noticed him as the long haired guitar playing ginger in The Commitments, the scruffy looking fella who received that Oscar for the song Falling Slowly a few years back, or perhaps the voice of that Irish busking character in The Simpsons.


However you might know him, tt can’t be denied that Glen Hansard is a man of many tricks and for me he has always been this raspy-rocky voice that features on a few select tracks on my Ipod, which were initially added by my friend when I was 16, as that was what all the cools kids were listening to ten years ago.


After all these years it seemed only natural to watch the singer/songwriter in person and for the most part he did not disappoint as I have yet to see a performer that puts so much energy and emotion into his music. Hansard told the story of each heartfelt song not only by his intense facial expressions but also through the raw and powerful range of his voice.


The gig kicked off with The Lost Brothers doing support. This duo, from Navan and Omagh, arrived in vintage style clothing and delivered a melodic quite Cajun sounding set of songs which influences no doubt came in some part from their time spent writing and recording in America.


Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland delivered a soft and gentle sounding melodic set to the audience while joking in between that this week it was London’s Barbican theatre and next week would be hoovering their mother’s staircases. I managed to catch up with the twosome afterwards who had recently played the famous Bugaloo bar in North London, a spot often frequented by Shane McGowan and Pete Doherty.


Although the pair did not make an appearance on the night The Lost Brothers often play with the Baby Shambles bass guitarist Drew McConnell. Oisin, the lead vocalist, told me that the gig itself was a great success. The band were also delighted to be playing the Barbican and said that they were looking forward to their coming tours.


The Lost Brother’s sound had echoes of Buddy Holly and Elvis at times with a real soothing Southern essence. Their take on Andy William’s Moon River lulled the audience nicely into their seats.


Then came Glen Hansard, who’s first impression on stage was not what you might expect as he was  followed on stage by what looked like a slightly bewildered and uncomfortable teenager girl who did not quite know where to stand or what to do.


In fact I am sure the audience shared her confusion until the first song You Will Become when she started to share the mic with Glen. Unfortunately this left-field performance approach only came across as odd and uncomfortable, as any closer and the two would have been locking lips. In this instance perhaps Glen should have invested in another mic as his timid companion could be barely heard.
It was his I Confess song later that the full range of his vocal ability could be felt as the emotional performer nearly seemed to turn blue in the face in order to reach the real hard gravel-y notes, a style which is now Hansard’s trademark and demands respect from his fans and audience.


Throughout each song Hansard became more physical, and at times it seemed like some guitar strings might soon hit against the back wall such was the intensity of the performance. In between his songs he kept the mood light and comfortable reminding the audience to unfold their arms and open up to the music.


The gig ended with his most famous Oscar winning song Falling Slowly, for which his timid companion once again appeared. The song brought everyone to their feet despite both Hansard and his female singer forgetting quite a lot of the words- surprising as surely this would be one to remember, no?


His last song was a Leonord Cohen cover called “Passing Through” for which the band aptly descended into the audience with their instruments until they arrived back on the stage for the final standing ovation.


Glen Hansard is a rare breed of performer who evidently not only puts his heart and soul into his music but also his mind and body. Although many of his songs can become indistinguishable from eachother he is a talented and enjoyable performer to watch, and if you are lucky enough to catch a gig where he remembers all the words, then going for the sole reason of hearing Falling Slowly played live will be enough in itself.