By now, everyone and their mother has seen the movie "Once" starring musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, so it came as no surprise that the crowd for The Swell Season was packed to the gills. Luckily, because I am a Friend (member) of Celebrate Brooklyn!, I was able to avoid the tremendous line and secure my seat early -- front row center! There was also a special pre-concert reception for Friends, so you betcha I consumed my share of cheese, fruit, chicken skewers, beer and Vitamin Water. While I had already taken advantage of my Friends pass a number of times this summer (Allen Toussaint and JG Thirlwell just to name a few), this evening alone was worth the meager $50 contribution.
(More words, pics and vids after the jump.)
We were delighted by The Low Anthem earlier and could not wait for The Swell Season to start up. Initially, just Hansard and Irglova took to the stage, and then eventually they were joined by the rest of their band mates. The two leads sharply contrasted with each other both in style and appearance. Hansard is a passionate troubadour, wailing at times at the top of his lungs, full of energy. Irglova, on the other hand, is demure and her delicate presence is somewhat muted -- with her bobbed haircut and plain dress, I was reminded of Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music." Together they played a wonderful 90+ minute set composed of the gorgeous music I first heard in "Once" and then subsequently in their second album, Strict Joy, which dealt with their falling out of love. We also heard a few cuts from Hansard's primary band, The Frames.
As expected, they were nothing short of awesome. With Hansard at the core of the band, his voice is the heart of the music, as it surged with emotion, but the songs in which Irglova took the lead provided a good balance, as her voice has a more plaintive quality and showed more restraint. They really make beautiful music together, and it's nice to see that even though they no longer are a couple, they still manage to tour together as The Swell Season.
To close out the night, the band invited The Low Anthem and their friend Josh Ritter to the stage to join them on their cover of Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (as featured on the "I'm Not There" soundtrack). It was one of those magical, electrifyingly good, edge of your seat evenings you wished would go on and on.
Glen performed an abbreviated but powerful "Say It To Me Now" as part of the encore:
Here is the last song, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" with The Low Anthem and Josh Ritter. Unfortunately, the mic was not picking up the vocals well, but you can see from the video that they're having a blast.