It was good seeing Glen Hansard at Millenium Park last night. I don't know how else to put it: having gone to see "Once", the movie he made with Marketa Irglova, more than once back in 2007, I feel like I know the guy. At the time I wrote of the movie: "There’s an urgency in the performances, as if through the force of their singing they might exorcize the pain...At times the raw emotion of the music they make together threatens to shake the film off its sprockets."
Well, the enthusiastic Irishman was alone under the Gehry bandshell last night (he and Irglova having since broken up), singing his heart out, armed with just an acoustic ax (and, on one song, a ukelele), bringing that soulful, intense roar. Can anyone but an Irishman make f-bombs sound so casually good-natured?
He did mainly new songs, but near the end of the set he did something I won't forget. Thanking Van the Man for the song and adding that it's one he used to do on the streets of Dublin, he went into an extraordinarily ferocious "Astral Weeks" that was one of the most remarkable versions I've ever heard, absolutely thrashing on the "to be born again" refrain, finally kicking a pedal to unleash a storm of thrash-metal feedback. By the end he was cracking himself up at how over-the-top it was.
"If I ventured in the slipstream/between the viaducts of your dream..."
Before going into "Falling Slowly" he commented that it's hard for him to do this one "without my friend". He needn't have worried. From throughout the seats and out over the park came wafting the sweet sound of hundreds of people softly singing Marketa's part. It's still magical, that song.
On the way out of course I couldn't resist snapping another shot of the Historic Michigan Boulevard District.