The last time the Swell Season played NYC’s Radio City Music Hall, it was May 2008, just a few months after principal members Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová won their Oscar for “Falling Slowly.” With Once-mania in full swing, they had no trouble selling out such a prestigious venue back then. But to fill Radio City again almost two years later, this time with no awards show water cooler moment to help spur ticket sales? Now that’s something.
And so last night the Swell Season (pictured at another recent gig) gave another sold-out RCMH crowd its money’s worth with a searingly emotional performance. That’s the only way they know how to do it. I saw Hansard and Irglová play for a small press audience last fall, and they filled that tiny club with the exact same passionate intensity as they did last night’s enormous room. Wherever they find themselves on stage, those two hold nothing back.
Hansard and Irglová’s romantic relationship is long over, but these shows suggest that their musical chemistry has only grown stronger with time. The same goes for the rest of the band: Last night the guys from Hansard’s other act, the Frames, whose membership has become more or less interchangeable with the Swell Season’s, helped add some welcome rock muscle to the melancholy folk of the Once soundtrack and last year’s excellent follow-up Strict Joy. They were also joined by a brass section including Clarence “Big Man” Clemons‘ nephew Jake Clemons on saxophone for several tunes, including a cover of “Drive All Night,” originally recorded by the elder Clemons’ boss Bruce Springsteen. I hadn’t realized what an important influence Springsteen was on Hansard until he mentioned it, but hearing that tune in his voice sounded so right.
“We don’t want this to end, but there are rules,” Hansard sighed after nearly three hours. It was time to say goodbye at last, reluctantly, but not before they sent us off with a lingering take on the Irish folk mainstay “The Parting Glass.” “Good night,” we sang along from throughout the house, “and joy be with you all.”
Were any of you in attendance last night, or have you seen the Swell Season elsewhere recently? Share your favorite concert moments in the comments below.
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