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Concert Reviews:
Oscar Duo Offers A Swell Night In Royal Oak

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, May 11, 2008

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ROYAL OAK -- The Swell Season's sold-out concert Saturday night (May 10) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre wasn't so swell for a few minutes.

Following Marketa Irglova's performance of a brand new song called "I Have Loved You Wrong," Glen Hansard -- her boyfriend and partner in the Academy Award-winning duo from the film "Once" -- admonished the sold-out crowd of 1,700 for being "rude" and, apparently, not paying proper attention to the performance. His explosion stunned the fans, who in fact had been paying rapt attention to the song, and Hansard introduced the next number -- the Oscar-winning "Falling Slowly," as "what two-third of you came to hear" and invited people to leave after it was over.

Fortunately, things improved shortly afterwards. Following a quick onstage chat with Irglova, Hansard was contrite, explaining the outburst as the result of tour fatigue and just a guy sticking up for his girlfriend. That put things back on track, although the Irish singer-songwriter spent the rest of the show overcompensating with his profuse thanks for the audience's attention.

That certainly provided a bit of drama in what was an otherwise rapturous night of richly textured and delicately crafted -- if decidedly laid-back -- music. Although the majority of the audience likely knew Hansard and Irglova from "Once," they displayed a much broader repertoire during the two-hour concert, drawing from the original 2006 Swell Season album, which includes several songs that also appeared on "Once," from the catalog of Hansard's other band, the Frames (whose members back the Swell Season on Saturday) and even a spirited cover of the Pixies' "Cactus."

The emotive and chatty Hansard, whose experiences busking in Dublin inspired some of "Once's" vignettes, was the show's unquestioned star. He kicked things off with a solo rendition of the film's "Say It to Me Now," declaring to the crowd that "this is what you waited for." He brought Irglova on for the plaintive "All the Way Down," then was joined by the band for "Lies" -- before which a woman on the floor shouted that, "You're hot, Glen!" And some of his rambling but insightful song introductions were nearly as long -- and in at least once case, longer -- than the songs themselves.

The Frames' "Fitzcarraldo," "What Happens When the Heart Just Stops" and the lullabye-like "Star Star" fit nicely next to the Swell Season material, and Hansard spiced the latter with a snippet of "Pure Imagination" from the Gene Wilder version of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." Opening act Damien Dempsey and his band then joined the Swell Season to finish the night with a charged rendition of the Irish traditional "Auld Triangle," trading verses with Hansard.

By then, of course, by-gones were by-gones and band and crowd were friends again. And chances are all those "Once" fans went home anxious to get their hands on the rest of the music they heard that night.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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