Sunday, May 18, 2008
The Swell/Frames Show
This is my third posting about my favorite current musical favorite - Glen Hansard/The Swell Season/ Frames. Last night, May 17th, I made my way to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore with my friend Deirdre to the sold-out Swell Season concert. For those of you who don't pay much attention to popular culture, live on a remote mountaintop, or...., this is the couple from the Irish indie film Once, which was a big hit here in the U.S. last summer. Their song Falling Slowly won an Oscar for best song. I saw them last summer at the 9:30 Club in DC - my 20-something son went with me. I missed them in November at the Lincoln Theater on U St. DC because I was in England.
The first thing I did when getting online this morning was to see if anyone had blogged about the show, and could fill in some details I might forget. The first I found was a great recounting of the concert. My thanks to an enthusiastic 28 year old blogger, mnomFRIES, who got the whole 2 hour long set list written down:) and other details. The show opened with Glen coming out singing accompanying himself on the same beat-up guitar with a hole in it that he played in the film Once, without a microphone, Say It To Me Now. He echoed in the great acoutics of the hall. It struck me that he was appearing as he did as the street musician/busker in the film Once.
I was ecstatic when Glen sang a solo only accompanied by his guitar playing,the Van Morrison song Astral Weeks. The album Astral Weeks is my absolutely all-time favorite rock album of all time. I have owned at least 2 copies of the LP, the cassette tape (remember those?), and the CD. This first solo album of Van Morrison's captures the poetry, and grittiness of working class Belfast of the late 1960's. The Troubles started in 1968, and Morrison, who grew up in a working class Protestant neighborhoods of Belfast, was just 23 years old at the time. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks combines a vision of working class Belfast, before the Troubles, with the kind of poetic expression that is not uncommon in the North. I was in Belfast twice in the early 1970's (my wild youth) spending time in the working class Catholic neighborhoods, at the height of this violent time. Having mentioned the poetry of Van Morrison's work, I have to add that Northern Ireland is full of poets, including the winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, Seamus Heaney. Other Northern poets include Belfast poets Ciaran Carson, who grew up in an Irish-speaking household in Belfast (which about as common as growing up in Great Falls, Montana speaking Hebrew), and Medbh McGuckian, who still lives in Belfast.
Like mnomFRIES, I too loved it when they played 2 of my favorite Frames songs for their encore - Fitzcarraldo- caught here in a YouTube video - which Glen wrote after seeing the Werner Herzog film about an Irish man who wants to build an opera house in the Peruvian jungle, part of which involves moving a ship across the jungle to get to a tributary of the Amazon River. The final song was Star, Star, a lovely lullaby-like song (as Glen described it), and the perfect ending to usher us our after a two hour set. It struck me at the end of the two hours of music what a generous performer Glen is. He gives and gives. I attribute this to a sensibility I often have encountered amongst working class Irish, which is a belief in the need to give back, and a sense of humility in the face of fame. This is an endearing quality I found in the Dublin of the days before prosperity (a Dublin I really, really miss). Fame is considered a gift, and something that could taken from you at any time. Being full of yerself (big-headed) is not a quality that you can live with in Dublin, as your friends, and neighbors, will berate you, jokingly, but cutting, at the same time.
Again thanks to mnomFRIES, I have borrowed the title - The Swell/Frames. The Swell Season consists of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Several members of The Frames joined them for a total of six musicians.The Frames are an "independent band from Dublin, that Glen Hansard is in, and has been around since 1990. Their music is awesome too:)!Finally, sorry for all the hyperlinks, I am a divergent, non-linear thinker, and assume some people will want more info when I go off on tangents.