Concert Review: Glen Hansard, Camp Counselor

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Glen teaches us “You’ve got, you’ve got my love…”
How It’s New York: Glen Hansard has been living in New York for the past year (though sadly he seems to have given up his East Village apartment, which means losing some of his John Lennon cred with me).
How It’s Irish: Glen is a Dub, and he was supported by his band The Frames, an Irish band that never quite hit here. Maybe that will change.
I was totally bowled over by Glen Hansard’s first solo CD, Rhythm and Repose, as you can tell by this InteReview, and the podcast I did with him. That was nothing compared to the concert..

 I spotted singers Michael Brunnock and Susan McKeown, and filmmaker Niall McKay, at (le) Poisson Rouge on June 28. Irish Arts Center’s Rachael Gilkey and Aidan Connolly were at The Beacon on the 29th.  If you missed Glen Hansard him last month, travel to wherever he’s playing and see him. Seriously.

  I cried at Glen Hansard’s concert.

Not because my feet hurt, though I’d been standing for four hours (one on line around the corner before the doors opened).

Not because they sang  some songs in tribute to the late Levon Helm, with musicians who had played with him.

I didn’t see it coming.
But when he played Bruce‘s “Drive All Night” (Bruuuuuuce) as an encore, and got us all to sing “you’ve got, you’ve got my love” and then screamed and I screamed with him “heart and soul,” the riff calmed down again…
and he somehow managed to sing “The Parting Glass” over it..

… I felt tears running down my face.

It was transcendent. It was beautiful.

I wasn’t sad. I don’t know what I was.
Maybe just really happy. Really alive.

The concert, which began sometime after 10, ended after 1, and I got home around 7 a.m..
It took me days to recover.
Not from the sleep deprivation. 

It was a hot summer night, and the June 28 show at the intimate club, which had been announced late, was completely sold out. When I arrived at 9:30, the line stretched around the block. I knew in advance it was standing only so I wore platforms, being on the short side.
I knew there was no designated press section. I’m well over 30 and don’t stand for concerts anymore, but this was something special.

People passing by the crowded Village treet would ask from time to time what was going on. Someone asked “who are you in line for,” and when she heard the answer “Glen Hansard,” said, “good for him!” as if she were his mother. Another woman said “who?” inspiring communal eye-rolls.

At the door there was a line of people who didn’t have tickets and weren’t on a list, but were just hoping.

Once inside, I gravitated towards the far end of the stage so I could be only two or three deep, asked a woman texting to try to save my place and ran for a Corona: a calculated risk but one that I had to make, since it was so hot I’d have spent the next two or three hours feeling thirsty.

A very tall man stood about two rows deep. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there should be a special section for the very tall. He was like a column blocking sightlines.

Nearest to the stage were women dressed in sequins and low-cut necklines, as if they were on a date with the band. They all seemed middle-aged. I wonder if this is true in a general way? Discuss.

I wasn’t able to take notes, as I was far too busy adjusting my sightlines around the woman in front of me who thought she was being cute bopping from left to right (do not do this, folks).

Glen was in fantastic form. I had read Michelle Woods’ review for this site of the film The Swell Season (we also had the directors on our podcast), and her story of seeing The Frames years ago in Dublin. Was expecting something a little more subdued.

Not at all.

I kept thinking “camp counselor.”

Glen kept pulling friends onto the stage, telling funny stories, getting us to sing, forgetting wrods and not caring, laughing and including us.

Have you ever been to sleepaway camp? He’s like that boating counselor you had a crush on, who told you one day they’d taken the word “gullible” out of the dictionary.

(Me: “they have?”)

I asked for a set list afterwards, but was told they’d departed from it wildly. No surprise there. It felt special, spontaneous, out of control. Even just being in the room was like being in on something: Glen said he wanted to play there because of his relationship with Tom Bartlett, Doveman, and his work with him.  Bartlett produced CD, and was very much involved in putting together the amazing “Other Voices” show at (le) Poisson Rouge in October. Bartlett holds The Burgundy Stain Sessiions at the club.

Lisa Hannigan, John Smith and others sing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

OK, so some of the “is so and so in the house” may have been a little staged– so what? The thing is: it’s New york. People are just here for another reason. They could just be in the dressing room or haning out.

We thought we’d come to see Glen Hansard, backed up by The Frames. We also got Lisa Hannigan, some of the cast of Once,  and many others.

Including a friend Glen said he had met at a sing-song session, who sat down and just began to sing a song he said he’d written. An unassuming guy with a long ponytail came onstage and  sat down at the keyboards…

and began singing:

“Tommy used to work on the docks
union’s been on strike, he’s down on his luck, so tough…”

and the whole house began to sing with him, drowning him out. Summer camp!

I’ve never really noticed that I knew all the words to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a prayer” until asked to sing them, though I have full cred as a Jersey girl. Now the song’s on my “recent fave” iPod playlist. I wish I could have it just the way Desmond Child sang it though, simply.

And a crowd of over a hundred shouting “we’re halfway there…”  

And for the rest of the night Glen cracked himself up singing the opening line again.
He also told us about coming to New York for the first time, when The Commitments opened (Glen played Outspan Foster), and telling the cab driver to take him to the Village… West Fourth Street… (and where? the driver asked).

Paul Whitty

Some of the cast of Once were in the house, and he brought them up to sing “Gold.” Paul Whitty, who plays Billy, sang a terrific “Rocky Road to Dublin” with a proper grunt on “HUNT the hare and turn her…” (not so many people in the house knew this as ‘Livin’ on a Prayer”). I have some issues with the musical as some of you know (not with the film) but you can’t argue with the music.

Lisa Hannigan and John Smith, so wonderful with Joe Kelly a few weeks ago, came up and sang “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Glen. Gorgeous. A friend Glen had met at Noho Star, K’Naan, came up and sang “Until the Lion Learns to Speak.”

And of course there were Glen’s songs, and The Frames. Apart from the guests, Glen played with Justin Carroll, Joe Doyle, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Rob Bochnik, Graham Hopkins, Stephen Bernstein, Erik Lawrence, Curtis Fowlkes (apologies if I left anybody out).

Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Someone shouted “Lies” and Glen said no– he wasn’t in the mood for it.  But he did sing “Fitzcarraldo/Revelate,” and just wailed on the guitar.  “Feeling the Pull,” with Justin Carroll, Joe Doyle, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, was a knockout. I met Colm afterwards, and look forward to receiving and reviewing his CD for this site (am told  he’s working on another). Also met Patrick Dillett, who mixed the album, so perfectly, afterwards.
Colm Mac Iomaire also made impressively eerie songs on the violin accompanying “You Will Become,” from the new CD.

Glen sang R.E.M.S “Hairshirt,” alone with his mandolin, letting us know it was the first song that ever made him cry, given to him on a tape by a girlfriend he had at 15 who was leaving for America.  (I hear Michael Stipe was in the audience too). The mandolin was out of tune at first, “ah, don’t do that to me,” he said.

I loved that he showed off the skills of the brass section he has touring with him, with “Blue Moon” (and he made us all sing, sometimes alone). ”

Steve Bernstein and Erik Lawrence played with Levon at his Midnight Rambles, and  Brendan McDonough also worked with Levon. Glenn honored Levon, who died on April 19, by finishing the show with “Don’t Do It’ and “The Weight.”

And then there was that unforgettable final encore, of Bruce Springsteen’s “Drive All Night,” from The River.  


Before he sang  the traditional”The Parting Glass” over it, Glen explained that it was a song often sung at a wake, almost like the dead raising a glass to you…but of course it’s also sung at a gathering of friends about to part.

It would be a great one around the campfire, too.

Of all the money e’er I had,
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm e’er I’ve done,
Alas! it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To mem’ry now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

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