Glen Hansard Regaled The Walt Disney Concert Hall With Gorgeous Music, Storytelling And Heart REVIEW: GLEN HANSARD @ WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL 3/11/18
LOS ANGELES, CA- On March 14th, 2018, I had the privilege of seeing Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Glen Hansard in an intimate performance; playing with the incomparable Los Angeles Philharmonic at the breathtaking Walt Disney Concert Hall.
I remember Mr. Hansard for his 2007 Oscar-nominated film, Once. He played a heart broken Irish street musician falling on hard times. When he meets his musical muse, played by pianist/songwriter Marketa Irglova, they comfort each other and create music that heals their wounds. Their performances were praise worthy but it was their songwriting that won them accolades (which included a 2007 Best Original Song Academy Award for “Falling Slowly”).
Personally, Once and its Grammy nominated score won my heart, as I too was going on a journey and leaving someone I loved behind. It ran in tandem to my own broken heart and the eagerness to find a connection in my new surroundings of Los Angeles. In 2008, I serendipitously met Mr. Hansard at a Grammy after-party, where we shared hello’s and he tried to drum up conversation about music. With great shyness that evening, I however, couldn’t find the beat to keep up his lively conversation and soon made my departure. Nearly a decade later, I fondly reflected on my own personal story as I watched him take center stage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and showered the audience with an indescribable human warmth through his stirring, sensitive and poignant music.
Tonight, Glen confessed he was nervous and slightly intimidated to come on stage to play with the prolific conductor and Hollywood composer, David Campbell. He confessed that he expressed doubt that as to whether he was up to the task. With the impeccable LA Philharmonic as his backing band, would he be able to keep up? It’s evident he is self-effacing as he considers himself the same mischievous street urchin from many years ago, but as the evening demonstrated, Glen has matured and strengthened his already prolific musical repertoire and matched the orchestra’s dynamism note for note with confident gusto.
The evening had a dichotomy of two different performances. Hansard would first play an hour with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, then play the second hour with his band. It was spectacular to witness this contrast in musical style. At first it felt like I was behind the scenes of a recording session for a blockbuster feature film. Then, it felt like I was watching an informal gathering of friends playing casually in my living room. I couldn’t say which I enjoyed more.
Playing his acoustic guitar in front of the large 70 member orchestra, he started on familiar ground by singing “Grace Between The Pines”. He then sang “Lies” and “When Your Mind is Made Up”, the latter of which earned him a standing ovation as he bellowed out the emphatic hook of “when your minds made up” with emotional gravitas. The audience leapt to their feet and cheered “I love you” and “Thank you”, possessed by Hansard’s impassioned performance.
Meanwhile, David Campbell conducted elegantly and fluid; swaying his body with emotion to the melody as his baton guided the next beats to his musicians. When he asked Glen to join him for this grand performance, Glen was hesitant to “jam with an orchestra” but was eventually won over by the challenge. Together, they conquered the challenge, and created a certain kind of musical magic that could only be experienced in the present.
In addition to his musicality, it was Glen’s own demeanor which captured the audience’s attention. His sense of irony brings great humor to the performance and elicits laughter from the audience. While some musicians refrain from regaling personal stories during concerts, Hansard uses storytelling to creates a flow from one song to the next. His stories connect people directly to the music, shedding light on the emotions and experiences that each song contains. His stories and music is an open window into his soul … and Hansard has a lot of soul.
I was particularly fond of Glen’s fascination and love of words and wordplay. He mentioned that he loved words like “mercy” or phrases like “My little ruin” and “Love will find you,” because they personify love as a disaster, or a detective. He’s enamored with words and feels them deeply, both with introspection and humor. In other words—he’s got wit, which harmonizes well with his mostly reflective, woeful and melancholy songs.
When Glen ended his set with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he sang “This Gift”. The lyrics conveyed the message that “[life’s] a gift” and “don’t give up.” The performance shook the concert hall with emotional vibrato. The percussion and brass were forceful in its celebration of life, causing fans to erupt in wild abandonment, leaping to their feet again in affected solidarity.
After intermission, the stage was reset to display a piano, guitar, bass, laud, trumpet and drums. On the drum skins the phrase “Save a Soul Mission” was written which was perfectly suited for a singer who writes songs about saving souls.
Glen’s performance with the band continued to span the entire emotional gamut. From light, airy and hopeful (“Winning Streak”) to intense and bluesy (“My Little Ruin”) to tender and anguished (“Time Will Be The Healer”), every soul in the room was deeply entrenched in Glen’s world. The performance also hit upon some political issues as Glen covered Joe Henry’s (who joined Glen on stage) “Keep Us In Song” which was written as a reaction to Trump’s election and also called out Trump’s border wall adding several lines to a cover of Woodie Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man”.
It was such a lovely evening of music, that I did not want the evening to end. But alas, all good things always do. As an encore, he invited a few friends from the audience to do an acoustic rendition of Pete Seeger’s “Passing Through”. Together, they beautifully harmonized with one another on the edge of the stage, singing into the audience. It was a perfect ending to an already brilliant and beautiful evening of gorgeous music, storytelling and heart.