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Concert Reviews:
"Once" Duo Delivers Swell Show In Ann Arbor
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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ANN ARBOR -- The last time the Swell Season came through these parts, nearly 19 months ago at the Royal Oak Music Theater, Glen Hansard admonished the crowd for being "rude" and noisy while his then-girlfriend and still musical partner Marketa Irglova was singing.

There were no such problems at the Michigan Theater on Wednesday night (Dec. 2).

The crowd sat in rapt, indulgent attention as the Academy Award-winning duo from the film "Once" and its backing band -- who regularly play with Hansard as the Frames -- poured out two hours and 15-minutes of heart-wringing songs that were beautiful, poignant and considerably more spirited than the emotionally heavy subject matter might indicate. The audience was so tuned into the band, in fact, that Hansard was able to lead a couple of singalongs and even conduct some impromptu choral whistling at the end of his solo performance of "Paper Cup."

And, with all due respect to Irglova, Hansard was the show-stealer on Wednesday with his charismatic personality and self-effacing humor. Noting the Michigan Theater's film schedule he introduced "The Moon" -- from the Swell Season's pre-fame 2006 debut -- as "for tonight, 'The New Moon'," and when one fan shouted out "I love you -- we don't say it enough," Hansard proceeded to tell each member of the band and crew that he loves them and promising the lighting tech that "I love you the most. Don't tell the others."

Hansard knew how to deliver a serious story, too; before "Say It Now," the first of his arresting four-song solo set, he recalled meeting a woman recently in Chicago whose son died in the 911 attack on the World Trade Center while clearing his desk after quitting his job the day before. He also spiced his emotive performances with an over-the-top cover of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks."

The rest of the 23-song show was split between the "Once" soundtrack and the Swell Season's new album, "Strict Joy." Hansard and Irglova started the concert seated on the stage for a cheery rendition of "Fallen From the Sky" before bringing the rest of the band on for "Lies." The "Once" hits "Minds Made Up" and "Falling Slowly" were highlights, and violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire provided an effective break from the proceedings with a solo treatment of the Gaelic "Cuirt Bhaile Nua (The Court of New Town)." The group also introduced a brand new song, "High Hope," during the encore and closed with a combination of the Frames' "Red Chord" and the Clancy Brothers' "The Parting Glass."

And when a fan yelled "Come back!" toward the end of the night, Hansard -- who spoke glowingly about the group's day off in Ann Arbor -- answered, "We will, I promise. Absolutely." There was clearly more swell for the Season this time around.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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