Glen Hansard & The Frames, Lisa Hannigan

Glen Hansard & The Frames, Lisa Hannigan (review on p. 35)
Recital Centre | 20 March 2013

Lisa Hannigan, nymph-like, plays lilting, melancholy folk music, her breathy girliness resounding through the audience. She is self-effacing when she mentions her role as support act, and her performance instils quietness in the audience as she moves deftly between instruments and tonal registers. She shows a lighter side with the insertion of a local reference “Don’t swallow bleach on St Kilda Beach” into her song Safe Travels (Don’t Die).

Glen Hansard and The Frames begin their slow-burning roller coaster gig, moving from introspective wanderings to explosive cacophony, accompanied by support musicians – three horns, three strings and keyboardist, Justin Carroll.

Hansard, playing his worn guitar complete with strumming holes, oozes passion and intensity with an authenticity that perhaps comes from his days as a busker.

He is a good storyteller and each of his songs comes alive. Everything has a story and every story a song in Hansard’s world – he observes the world through a musical lens.

There is entertaining audience interaction too. Flirting with Tara from Dublin, “We like Dublin girls…we like Czech girls too”, provides a cheeky reference for those who have seen the movie Once starring Hansard and Czech singer Markéta Irglová, and tracks from the movie are warmly received, especially Falling Slowly, which sees Hannigan return to sing the female vocal.

Hansard is surprising and nonconformist – while playing solo he howls wolf noises into the bowels of his guitar and loops it back hauntingly, then changes pace with a melancholy ukulele song inspired by reading popular fiction series, The Hunger Games.

Showing his versatility, he plays a frenetic cover of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, which segues into the plaintive chorus from Pearl Jam’s Smile. Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting, his meditative piece based on John Martyn’s song, Bless The Weather, showcases his powerful voice, unleashed.

Hansard returns alone for an encore with a truncated Say It To Me Now, playing acoustically at the front of the stage, looming over the enthralled audience as his throaty menace flings out. As he strums, The Frames appear and stand with him, male voices raised in harmony. He follows this with an impromptu rendition of Irish folk song The Auld Triangle (an audience request) with contributions from fellow Framers and a couple of audience members. It’s spontaneous and atmospheric, raising the mood significantly following a number of slower songs.

To conclude, Leonard Cohen’s Passing Through is an extravaganza, as Hansard leads a musical conga line off stage, playing out through the auditorium past fans waving various mobile devices, out into the foyer and down the stairs. Pied-Piper style we are led out onto the street, singing along in the chorus, finally coming to a stop outside the stage door where the last chords ring out into the night. The cheeky troubadour, smiling and sweaty, disappears with his band mates, leaving us with memories of a truly epic and unforgettable experience.

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