Sunday 25 August 2019

Glen Hansard at Nowlan Park: Support act 'bristles with ragged, restless energy' before Neil Young and Bob Dylan

Glen Hansard
Glen Hansard
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Word has it that Bob Dylan personally requested that Glen Hansard play this support slot in Kilkenny with him today.

It is not difficult to see why.

Apart from Hansard being one of this nation's greatest bards, he is also one of the most intriguing. In some ways, the Irish singer-songwriter has the problems of perception of him and his music that Dylan had in the 1960s.

For Dylan, it was that he was the people’s poet, the spokesperson for a generation.

For Glen, it is that he is some sort of overly sincere, bookish balladeer, a staid sultan of deeply felt but cerebral folk.

As Rolling Stone magazine earlier this year noted: ‘Glen Hansard once received a nickname from his friend Nico Muhly: Earnest Strum. The name was a way for Muhly, a contemporary composer, to poke fun at the type of exceedingly sincere, traditionally-rooted folk that Hansard has mostly been making for the past dozen years, ever since he rose to unlikely mainstream fame with the success of the 2007 musical drama Once.’

Yesterday afternoon in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny opening up for Neil Young and the aforesaid Mr Dylan, Earnest Strum was retired, or  presumed dead, beaten to death with a guitar.

Bristling with a ragged, restless energy, Glen Hansard was on fire from the moment he stepped on stage at 5pm to 'Bird Of Sorrow'. 

He is loose and almost impressionistic at the microphone like Van when he gets lost in the magic of the moment of the music he is making. On 'When Your Mind's Made Up', the  words become a mantra. 

On 'Way Back In The Way Back' he is a pent-up ball of passion and poetic intensity. The crowd sang back the words back to him. There is an energy exchanged. It is magical to be part of.

If he was merely supposed to warm up the audience before headliners Young and Dylan then Glen broke his contract.

He took the crowd on a spiritual journey into their souls. Before he played 'Shelter', he told the crowd that "we have been voting in Fianna Fail or Fine Gael since the formation of the state.

"Is it not time we tried somebody f***ing else?" Apropos of Dylan and Young, Glen said:

"It's pretty exciting back there. You have to keep your head but you know ...it's pretty f***ing exciting back there."

In fairness it was pretty exciting here too, courtesy of your very good self. 

The last words he said as he left the stage at Nowlan Park to resounding cheers at 5.42pm was : "The next time you see me in this f***ing field I am going to be f***ing headlining!"

On the strength of his beautiful, off-kilter performance, no one in Kilkenny would disagree.

Rest in peace, Earnest Strum. Long live Ragin' Glen Hansard.

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