This Glen Hansard article was written by Joel Gehler, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells. Photo’s by Kirakirawes Photography
A few moments before Glen Hansard and his band took to the stage at Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Wednesday night there was a clear step up in the crowd’s anticipation, with a growing atmosphere of expectation. Conversations quickly turned to what kind of show was in store, what songs were going to make up the set and whether we’d get any surprises. However there was one thing that everybody was sure of – the show was going to brilliant. Hansard is the kind of performer who empties the tank every night and rarely (if ever) fails to leave the audience in awe. It is one of the reasons why people keep coming back to see him again and again. With a back catalogue of great songs and passionate showmanship, Glen Hansard treated the London crowd to a stunning 2 hour set that demonstrated just how strong a performer he is.
Right from the delicate opening of ‘Grace Beneath the Pines’ up to the triumphant finale of ‘Her Mercy’, Hansard and his band had the audience in the palm of their hands, taking in every note and hanging on every word. The set was expertly paced drawing upon solo material, songs from The Swell Season and The Frames alongside a few fantastic covers. The first real sing-along of the night belonged to ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’ and was the first of many beautiful moments between performer and audience that defined the whole show. ‘Leave’ and ‘Falling Slowly’, both also from the ‘Once’ Original Soundtrack, were met with the crowd singing every word back as soft and as heartfelt as Hansard himself. Whether performing solo or with the band, each song was played wonderfully and highlighted the strength of his song writing.
When Hansard and co were not serenading the audience they also packed a punch with the 9-piece band, composed of strings, horns, Piano, Bass, Guitar and Drums, coming alive during the bluesy stomp of ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ and the newly written ‘Way Back In The Way Back When’ – providing the grit behind Hansard’s gospel-esque preaching. There were many moments throughout the night that felt quasi-religious as Hansard brought the audience together as one in an effortless and wholly uplifting manner. At other times it felt like a Dublin pub sing-along with the local band. This gift of making a room like the Shepherd’s Bush Empire both small and big whenever the song suits is a testament to the power that Glen Hansard transcends onstage.
The main set closed with a roof raising ‘This Gift‘, lifting all of the audience onto their feet at the end with a deafening applause. As the crowd were calling for an encore, Hansard and his Guitarist, Rob Bochnik, a fellow member of The Frames, snuck out onto the first level balcony treating the audience to an intimate unplugged encore. After two unplugged songs it was onto the final stretch starting beautifully with ‘Falling Slowly’ that no doubt brought some tears to the room. The real highlight of this encore came in the form of a full crowd sing-along to the Irish classic ‘The Auld Triangle’ that delighted the large Irish contingent. Finally closing with a storming version of ‘Her Mercy’ met another massive standing ovation ensured that no one left without a smile on their face.
As the London crowd piled out into the rainy night beaming from ear to ear, one thing is for certain – each time Glen Hansard rolls into town, they’ll be back to see him again and again. When an artist is this good, who can blame them?