Monday, May 19, 2008

The Swell Season @ Toad's Place (Richmond, VA)

Not your typical Rockist outing as it was a) not located in a gentrifying neighborhood of the District of Columbia, b) featured an Oscar-winning male-female duo rather than some scruffy mustachioed dudes from your favorite college town music scene, and c) was really more of a date for me and my girlfriend. But some of you (us) still like this stuff, and, at any rate, there were a few purely Rockist moments that would be worth reporting regardless.

The Swell Season are basically just Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's project that turned into the 2007 hit indie flick Once. Before Once, Hansard was/is in Irish band The Frames -- who are huge over there despite their only tepid reception stateside -- and Irglova was an unknown Czech teenager (she's now 20). On this tour, The Frames are along as a backing band, but just as often he plays solo or she plays solo or just the two of them play together. They're a funny couple onstage. She's barely half his age and shy, while it's pretty apparent he was born to perform in front of an audience.

If this tour is still something of an introduction -- "Hey America! Remember us? We're a real band, it wasn't just a movie!" -- then the set's undeniable high point, the Oscar-winning tune "Falling Slowly", is their nightly victory lap. In Richmond, they soaked it up and stretched the song out, and Hansard took the last few bars to recount the whirlwind feeling of the past year (something like that when what you've been striving for actually comes true, 99% is incredibly happy and the other 1% wishes nothing had changed). The movie's best scenes -- when the drums kick in on "When Your Mind's Made Up" and grab the studio engineer's attention, when Hansard plays their recordings for his father and Pops replies "it's just so good, son" -- are quietly triumphant, and "Falling Slowly" was the tune that matched that feeling best.

As far as Rockist material, during the set proper, Glen and Marketa did a spirited, harmony-laden duet on The Pixies' "Levitate Me" that was a lot of fun and had me searching for a new copy of Come On Pilgrim the next day (Glen interjected "this is a Pixies song" halfway through -- a decidedly un-Rockist thing to do). And then The Swell Season closed with "Ireland's greatest songwriter" Van Morrison, doing a fine cover of "Into the Mystic." Hansard's voice doesn't suit it as well as you might think, but the harmonies were good and the couple got the crowd to sing the horn parts.

We now resume your regularly scheduled Rockist programming...

The Swell Season - "Into the Mystic"


Markus said...

Upcoming gig in Barbican theater London - 3/06/08. Sold out! One of very few this year in UK...
Someone's flogging tickets on e-bay...

Isorski said...

On my blog, I moved away from my usual rock and roll subject matter posting for Swell Season as well!

I caught the 'band' at the start of the tour in Portland and they were fantastic. I posted a review on my blog at Check it out!

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