If you’re reading this that means you survived St. Patrick’s Day 2018 and I applaud you. To say yesterday was a mess would be an understatement. My plan was to just stay in all day, get stuff done around the apartment, make a nice dinner, and then head to the Glen Hansard show at the Palace. Of course, my unplanned lunch with a friend turned into a trip to downtown Saint Paul which turned into a couple of drinks surrounded by people who had been drinking for far too long. Eventually, I looked down at my phone to realize that time had flown by and it was time for me to the head to the show. I said my goodbyes, and left the giant street party for a show that was so out of my element that my friends must have thought that I had finally lost it.
It seemed only fitting that I would go see an Irishman on St. Patty’s day. That’s part of the reason I chose the Glen Hansard show over just continuing hanging out with my friends but the main reason is his voice. I’m sure you’re reading this thinking that you’ve never heard of Glen Hansard but I’d be willing to bet that’s wrong. Have you ever heard of The Frames? Maybe The Swell Season? Still not with me? How about that beautiful 2007 film ‘Once’? Yeah, that’s all him so, honestly, I was ditching my friends to see a freaking god among men in my mind which made the split way easier for me than them.
I’ve seen The Swell Season before and knew that Glen’s voice was going to be exactly what I wanted it to be. I knew that his charm was going to radiate from the stage while he still came off as just another guy with a guitar and talent. I was excited for last night because I had yet to see him perform a solo show and I wanted to see what that would be all about. After taking my seat in the balcony, the lights went down and the crowd applauded as Glen and his backing musicians took the stage. There was a sense of respect that reigned supreme throughout majority of the night between the crowd and musicians. As soon as Glen took his spot behind the microphone, the crowd stopped the cheering and went dead silent as Glen kicked off his set with ‘This Gift’.
I can not explain to you how beautiful this show was visually. Sure, it was just a bunch of people on stage playing music but there were little nuances that made the show seem like so much more. It was the sparkles on the sleeves of the three strings players sitting on stage right. There were moments when the light would catch the sparkles just right and create a beautiful sight. Then there was the way that whoever was playing got the spotlight on them. If it was a horns solo, the spotlights were just on the three piece horn section in the back of the stage. If it was the jaw-dropping amazingly talented pianist (seriously, I was in awe of her talent and when I got home I instantly went to my piano with a new sense of motivation), the spotlight would be on her and her only. Even though it was clearly Glen’s show, the spotlight stayed where it belonged and that respect is something that doesn’t happen enough and something that, when noticed, can change the entire balance of a show.
Glen’s set was extensive and long but it was one of those sets that went too fast. Even though he played seventeen songs followed by a five song encore, it wasn’t enough. The set was full of mostly original songs but, of course, there were a couple The Frames and The Swell Seasons songs thrown in there along with a ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ cover (a traditional Irish song that was perfect for the day) and a couple of other covers spattered throughout the set. It didn’t matter if what he and his band was playing was a cover, there was still a strong ‘Glen Hansard’ sound to the song. His distinctive voice that carries a sense of playfulness about it while still having a sense of tenderness and power behind it is something that only he can do.
Beyond the unimaginable amount of talent Glen Hansard possesses was his truly charming personality that shined throughout the show. His little stories and jokes for the crowd were sometimes cheesy, sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious– regardless, you felt like he was only speaking the truth and that’s something that doesn’t happen enough. He talked about how he was woken up from his stay at The St. Paul Hotel by the sound of horns and people shouting and a huge commotion. He got out of bed, looked out the window and “I saw Hades. It was Hades out there!”. He went onto explain that people here do St. Patrick’s day way bigger than anyone over in Ireland and proceeded to give the audience drinking advice. I mean, drinking advice from an Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day. If that’s not perfect, I don’t know what is. There were plenty more moments like this throughout his set. After a comment about being 48 and still writing love songs, someone in the crowd shouted back a reminder that he is only 47. I was laughing at moments and tearing up at others. When that happens, you know you’re at a magical show and a show that will be next to impossible to put into words.
I can’t tell you about the way the goosebumps popped up on my arms the second Glen started singing or tell you about the hair on my neck standing straight up. I can’t convince you that my time sober at a concert was better than your drunken shenanigan’s that probably ended up with a nasty hangover this morning. What I can tell you is that if you were at the show last night you felt a magic that you will never forget and I’m truly thankful having gotten to experience that.