The Swell Season / May 19, 2008 / New York (Radio City Music Hall)
With their charming pop melodies and quiet harmonies, Glen Hansard and his partner Marketa Irglova made a point of treating Radio City like a quaint club.Glen Hansard, armed with a weathered acoustic guitar and an ear-to-ear grin, walked onto the fully lit stage of Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall and addressed the 6,000 faces assembled in the cavernous space.
“Can you hear me okay?” asked the knowingly unmiced performer. The echoes of “No!” that rang from the audience didn’t stop Hansard from launching into a spirited, unamplified rendition of “Say It To Me Now.” The song grew from a modest whisper to a pleading scream that reached even the “cheap” seats. The hushed audience sat perchedo on the edge of its seat, in unbroken attention, for the remainder of the Swell Season’s two-hour performance.
From the outset, the Irish Hansard and his Czech-born partner Marketa Irglova made a point of treating Radio City like a quaint club venues. It was more than their charming pop melodies and quiet harmonies that helped create the intimacy. Throughout the set, the duo told endearing stories, invited friends and family members onstage for collaborations, changed the set list on a whim and led the audience in multiple sing-alongs. It may have been one of the biggest gigs (literally and figuratively) of their career, but the duo succeeded at bringing a palpable humility to the grandiose venue, which only served to amplify the sincerity of their tender tunes.
As expected, the set featured many songs from the pair’s acclaimed, star-making indie film "Once," including crowd-favorites like "Lies," "When Your Mind's Made Up," the Oscar-winning ballad "Falling Slowly," and the audience-demanded novelty gem, "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy."
The crowd was also treated to a lesser-known standouts, among them "Gold" (which featured a return appearance by the night’s opening act, Interference) and several songs by the Frames (Hansard's other musical outfit). Irglova and her sister, who flew over from the Czech Republic for the show, performed a cover of Paul Giovanni’s "Gently Johnny." But the evening’s biggest applause was reserved for Hansard’s raw, fiery rendition of Van Morrison’s "Astral Weeks," which was rewarded with the a thunderous standing ovation.
Still, it seemed the greatest awe was felt by the performers onstage, who often remarked on the surprising good fortune that had them headlining a venue that seemed almost out-of-reach when the pair made their New York debut in 2006.
"A couple years ago, we decided to kick our ball as hard as we could, and see how far it would go," Hansard said at one point during the show. "We were hoping it would reach the end of the garden, but we watched it go … across the street, over the next town, into a place we’d never even heard of before.
"And the great thing about (nights like this) is that it sort of quiets the 1% of you that wishes you could have your ball back."