Glen Hansard at Vicar St, Dublin review: 'An evening of stark contrasts that doesn't leave any musical stone unturned'
Lady Luck has frequently been kind to Glen Hansard, as the Frames singer has enjoyed a career full of very pleasant surprises from starring in The Commitments in 1991 to scooping an Oscar in 2007.
As he returns to Dublin for a brace of sold out home-town shows, Hansard receives the early Christmas present of a Grammy nomination for his second solo album Didn’t He Ramble.
The singer reveals on-stage the title refers to the Rambler’s Inn, a bar his father used to frequent. He also lovingly dedicates a track entitled ‘Pay My Way’ to his Dad, prefacing the tune with a reference to the numerous “druncles” he met over the years, helpfully explaining the phrase was coined by Damien Dempsey and refers to people who aren't relatives, but highly entertaining characters seeking refuge in the family home for a few days.
Hansard used to perform marathon shows in Whelan’s to rival Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead in terms of duration with nothing more than a guitar, his songs and a motley crew of special guests. His set up now encompasses a ten-piece backing band including a string and brass section, pianist and guitarist, plus Frames stalwarts Joe Doyle on double bass and long-term drummer Graham Hopkins, who is also celebrating his fortieth birthday.
It is an evening of stark contrasts from the stark Irish folk of ‘McCormack’s Wall’, prefaced by another cracking anecdote co-starring Lisa O'Neil and Damien Dempsey, to brass-laden tunes channelling the spirit of Van Morrison. Hansard also aptly covers Morrison's 'Astral Weeks', elongating the song with raucous, rock-tinged blasts of acoustic guitar. The Oscar winning 'Falling Slowly' and Frames favourite 'Revelate' make a seasonal appearance, but it is when the ten piece band truly hit their stride for gorgeous, fully-realised songs such as 'This Gift', which closes the main set, that the performance truly soars.
During the encores set, Glen introduces a raucous Dublin rock band called Bitch Falcon to the stage, which is a far cry from Damien Rice and the usual singer-songwriter suspects. Hansard and Bitch Falcon kick out the jams with a furious version of ‘Where is My Mind?’ by the Pixies, revealing another one of Hansard’s formative influences.
The aforementioned Cavan songstress Lisa O’Neill pops up for a delightful version of ‘Raglan Road’, while ‘The Auld Triangle’ calls time on a concert that doesn't leave any musical stone unturned. His next stop could well be picking up a Grammy to keep his Oscar company.