Live Music + Gig Reviews

Glen Hansard @ Auntie Annie’s, Belfast

28 January 2003

Having seen support act Mark Geary in the same venue almost a year ago, I wasn’t expecting much. I found his songs to be laborious and dull. So I was pleasantly surprised by tonight’s performance – he seems to have harvested a lot of his songs, cut away the chaff and kept the good tunes, while making these shorter and more pronounced.

But we were here for Glen Hansard. This is the fifth time – count them – I’ve seen Glen Hansard live in the past 12 months, both as a solo artist and in The Frames. I’ve always come away impressed with both his songs and the entertainment value of the shows, and tonight was no exception. A rapturous welcome to the stage was greeted by a trademark smile from Glen before he picked up the same battered guitar he has been playing for years and launched into his set.

Tonight’s set seemed musically more orientated than the usual story session Glen launches into at most gigs. That is not to say he didn’t talk – he joked around and explained the meaning behind some tunes, but this time a lot more music was played. Perhaps he has been listening to some of the light-hearted criticism about his gigs becoming slightly embarrassing – with the crowd hanging onto every word.

What Happens When The Heart Just Stops? is truly a touching masterpiece. It really takes a gig like this to realise just how many classic tunes The Frames have. From Red Chord to Lay Me Down, they are all played here and sound exceptional in such a secluded live environment. As the man himself said, tonight’s gig was used as a testing ground for the seemingly vast collection of new songs waiting to be recorded. Even on first impression they all seemed very promising, and although it was difficult to tell just from one listen, they did appear to be of a simpler formula, almost resembling The Beatles at times.

I came away from this gig with one question on my mind – does Glen Hansard really need The Frames as a vehicle for his music, or would he be better off solo? From tonight’s performance I would go with the former. Although I said the same thing last year, I will repeat it again – see him live in a small venue while you still can.

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Glen Hansard @ Auntie Annie’s, Belfast