It’s the last day of Celtic Connections 2013 and the venue is the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow’s Merchant City. Tonight the audience have come to see Irish singer songwriter Glen Hansard and his band along with support act The Lost Brothers also of Ireland. The standing area of the venue is resplendent with lights, tables and fold out chairs dotted all over as people find a seat with a good view and within quick march to the bar between songs and intermissions. The balconies were decorated with multicoloured lights which hung from the banisters and staircases guiding people upwards while keeping the ambience of the evening mellow and intimate as Muddy Waters plays on the tannoy. I had never seen this venue before and was so far impressed and couldn’t wait to see what the music of the evening was going to be like.
Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland of The Lost Brothers grace the stage suited and booted and welcome everyone “It’s great to be back in the Old Fruitmarket” then give us a soulful rendition of ‘Now That the Night Has Come’ from their new album The Passing of the Night. Beautiful vocal harmonies and acoustic guitar work help set the tone for the informal evening. After another couple of songs they stop for them to introduce themselves to us and tell us that “we were here Three years ago and that you are the quietest audience we have ever seen, which is good because it means you respect the music”. After this they give us a song they wrote in Liverpool where they met called ‘Pale Moon’ from their 2011 album So Long John Fante. The song has everyone drawing comparison to the likes of The Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel. The pace picks up with ‘Bird In a Cage’ from their album The Passing of the Night which has the audience clapping along as Mark and Oisin have the audience in a trance and when the song ends it breaks only to give the brother a rousing round of applause. Oisin breaks again to chat to the audience again to tell us more stories of the places they used to busk and play in as well as how his mother “grew up here playing hide and seek in the fog”, before introducing their next song called ‘Angry At the Sun’ from their album Trails of the Lonely which brings the evening back to a more sombre atmosphere. The next song has the audience in a more upbeat yet still very intimate mood called ‘City of the Rose’ also from the album Trails of the Lonely which sees Mark handling the majority of the guitar work here. Oisin stops to dedicate their next song to “Glen and The Frames for taking us on” the song was ‘Save It For the Goodbye Kiss’ which is the a brilliant song about the only good thing about an ending. Offsetting the melancholy of the song with the upbeat melody from their guitars and banter which the “quiet” audience can’t get enough of. Next up was a cover number that when the last time they sang it was on tour the week the man who originally wrote the song passed away. That man was Andy Williams and the song was ‘Moon River’ which gets them an immense roar from the audience when they finish. More chat is thrown back and forth about Jarvis Cocker and Tesco before saying farewell with their song ‘Under the Turquoise Sky’ from their album Trails of the Lonely.
A small amount of time passes us by before Glen saunters on stage with his band before beginning he gently whispers to us “It’s great to be back”. Armed with his acoustic we start off the night with ‘You Will Become’ from his new album Rhythm and Repose (which is the artists first solo album) followed by a song he claims is “How the imagination is far more forgiving than reality” called ‘Maybe Not Tonight’ from the same album which gives a very mellow start to proceedings which after he finishes the applause comes thick and fast to which he replies “What a lovely town to find yourself in”. Before starting the next track ‘Talking with The Wolves’ the third track from Rhythm and Repose Glen declares to us this is a song that essentially describes us food for nature. It’s a wonderful performance with a great blend of upbeat music and foreboding lyrics which after quickly finishing he screams “REQUIEM!” into the mic apparently a fan of Limmy as he also dedicates the next track to him which is ‘Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ again from his new album which he mixes up with an Aretha Franklin Medley in the form of ‘Respect’. The new material is definitely being aired tonight and the crowd are lapping it up, this is my first Glen Hansard gig and it is becoming the highlight of the Celtic Connections Festival.
Glen thanks his audience for coming and his support act The Lost Brothers before introducing the next song which he tells us is “about the first flushes of love and how sometimes you’re just looking for a room”. This is ‘Philander’ from his new album which garners him wolf whistles and woops when it’s over and before long he’s telling us the meaning of his next song and how “the ladies in our lives are always right. therein lies the challenge”, which gets a giggle from the audience before starting ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’ which comes from the soundtrack he wrote for the movie Once which also seen Hansard starring in. Glen Hansard and his band are full of energy with wither the song is filled with bombast or is a sombre moment each note played is packed with an energy which has the audience gripped. The stories are also brilliant as Glen connects with his Glasgow audience through describing the inspiration for his next number as “The slow upward turn and the decision to go the right direction, the quiet realisation” this almost sounds deep until Glen describes it in planer terms “as the moment when your hung over and it’s late in the day so you finally realise you’re not going to die” which gets more laughs from his crowd as the song finally starts ‘Low Rising’ from the album Strict Joy which was written with his other project The Swell Season. The song is a brilliant laid back affair which his lead guitarist displays some awesome work on as well as his Trombone player also getting a solo on there. Following that up is “A song about family and they say if you think you’ve reached enlightenment then go hang out with your family for a week, there’s a reason why those monks are up on a mountain”. The Piano chimes in on the beginning of ‘Bird of Sorrow’ which he mixes up with Van Morrison’s ‘When Heart Is Open’ which he quickly follows up with ‘Leave’ which is also from the Once soundtrack.
The mood may be mellow but the energy is still there and more focused. At this moment and time he is on his own as he gives a great rendition of ‘Spencer The Rover’ in dedication to John Martyn saying “here’s a tribute to this place and that man” which gets a great reception from this Glasgow crowd. He then quickly straps on his Ukulele and plays what he claims was the first song he ever wrote on it ‘Pennies In The Fountain’ which he claims caused some confusion in America as they thought it was “Panties In The Fountain” to which he says “that explained what all the giggling was about whenever I played it”. Next up is a rendition of Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ after this wow performance the band return to the stage and Glen begins another tale about the next song which is about “When a conversation gets so heated and you leave it in the middle and come back to it in Five years”, the song was ‘High Hope’ from his album Rhythm and Repose which he has the audience join in on the chorus which he instructed us on before the song began and the audience don’t miss their cue. After the sng he stops and barks out “Wheres Murdo?!?” who as soon as he finds him tells us of how he met the 15 year old busker the day before and “bottled out” of performing with him as he suddenly became very shy. Before long the audience was demanding that Murdo got to perform on stage then and now which Mr Hansard was all to happy to ablige. Soon Murdo Mitchell was on stage with the band performing the Amy MacDonald number ‘Mr Rock N’ Roll’ as the audience clapped and sang along. When it was over Murdo returned to his seat with a standing ovation and had inspired Glen to do “a cover of a cover” as he described it. He heard The Band perform it first but it was a Marvin Gaye number called ‘Don’t Do It’ which he launched straight into quickly following that with The Frames ‘Santa Maria’ from their album For The Birds.
He engages the audience to discuss the song writing process with audience and how the next song came to be. What unfolds is a story about his friend Esra who had been in and out of chemo for years and had finally decided to just stop and live the last 6 months of his life to the full. Glen then unplugs his microphone and guitar and steps to the edge of the stage and begins to sing ‘Song of Good Hope’ from his new album. This was an artist in direct communication now with his audience as the air is still as he sings a touching tribute to someone that clearly means something to Glen. The song ends and the crowd go wild as Glen leaves the stage only to be brought out again on his own still unplugged and begins ‘Say It To Me Now’ another song from the Once soundtrack. After this the rest of the band join him back on stage to finish up with tracks ‘Falling Slowly’ from Once, ‘This Gift’ from Rhythm and Repose which he gets his crew member Eva Gaffney to help him with before performing the Leonard Coen song ‘Passing Through’.
An absoulute triumph of a show from the outstanding support in the form of The Lost Brothers and the headliner himself Glen Hansard who shows the audience how its done. Celtic Connections 2013 definately went out with a bang.