St Columb’s Hall, Derry
13th April 2019

Is there is a better live performer in terms of sheer energy, musicality and emotion currently treading the boards at the minute than Glen Hansard? After this Performance in Derry, I would strongly suggest not.

The second night in the old St. Columb’s Hall saw another capacity crowd, captivated in the way very artists can grab an audience. Songs old and new, originals and covers, all sounded incredibly fresh and vibrant. No one does soft to loud quite like the Dublin man. And yet it was a gig that very nearly was aborted at its beginning thanks to the bane of real music loving concert goers.

Half way thought the first song Glen told the band to kill the music before admonishing a number, and it was a significant number of people who insisted in talking through the set. “Are you at a gig, or are at a bar?” he asked to huge cheers from the majority of the crowd. Sadly this did not stop those intent on talking at volume and Glen was forced to stop a second time, threatening to walk. “People have come from all over the world to play for you. We have come to you, please come to us”! Thankfully, for the most part, people listened, and he stayed, and boy how he played!

Once the pact had been made, what followed was a wondrous evening of melody, emotion and commitment, humour and a bond between audience and performer, which transcends that on offer at most gigs. The songs flow relentless in their quality and delivery. A brooding bass line introduces new song, ‘I’ll Be You, Be Me’, whose eeriness is wonderfully enhanced by the barely up lit faces on stage, before the music bursts into chaos and the writer’s confusion and dilemma in the song is exposed. ‘Don’t Settle’ is another gem in a night of treasures. Based on a piece of advice Liam Clancy once gave to a young Bob Dylan, “No envy, no anger, no cruelty, no regrets”, The song is a call for artists to persevere and not give up, on the truth.

Backed by a superb band of ten, included a three piece string section and a brass section, the playing is a given, superb throughout. Glen moves effortlessly from acoustic guitar to electric guitar, to keyboards. It’s hard to believe his guitar strings survive the battering he gives them in the wondrous ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’. ‘Winning Streak’ has become a backbone of the live shows and a firm fan favourite. In between the songs, there are insights and humour. Always ready to praise others, he explains how much the Khoshravesh brothers have added to the texture on the new album ‘This Wild Willing’, and laments that they were unable to be here because of travel restrictions. “Try getting visas for Iranian lads now”. As some of the crowd are amused at this, Glen continues, “laugh now but think about it later”, reflecting on a world where borders grow tighter and walls grow higher.

‘The Closing Door’ is sung as a warning that the opportunities to redress the damage we have done to the planet are running out and quickly. ‘Race To The Bottom’ and a storming, almost unrecognisable, electric version of ‘Didn’t He Ramble’, up the atmosphere once again. Kraftwerk’s ‘Autobahn’, gets a brief outing before morphing into a rollicking ‘Roll On Slow’, and still the energy level never dissipates. ‘Falling Slowly’ has the crowd in raptures, and singing along to the Oscar-wining tale of love and a hope that connects us all. “I’ll get through this” he sings as if a mantra for these troubled times. If you think the show perhaps lacks a little crowd surfing, will Glen even provides us with that. Although the Derry crowd seem a little unsure about the actual mechanics of such a move and Glen has to return on foot to the stage!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a lot of gigs over the years and this is the best I’ve been to in terms of sheer musicality, commitment, and feeling, since, well since the last Glen Hansard gig I attended. Glen suggests in his sleeves notes to the new album that “beauty is in the ear of the behearer. Well, tonight those that listened were treated to an exceptional night of beauty and emotion.

May his winning streak never end.