For Christmas John got us tickets to see The Swell Season at Radio City Music Hall, which is really a double-whammy of a gift since I love their music dearly and I’d never seen a show at Radio City. The concert was last night and I’m still kind of in awe of what I witnessed. Several of my friends who read my blog are already fans and may have seen them in concert, but I want to bring them to everyone’s attention that I can, because in a world of manufactured crap, they truly deserve it.
I discovered them the way most people do, through the movie Once, which has since become one of my favorites. The first time I saw the film it was in my living room, which is usually a bad start. I have complete and total ADD, and whenever I watch a movie I’m likely to be reading something on my computer, I’ll have to go to the bathroom, my phone will ring, five minutes into it I’ll think “ooh, I’d like a cup of tea, would you like a cup of tea? Ok pause it I’ll be right back. Oh crap we’re out of tea, let’s run to the store! Just leave the movie running I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” A dark movie theater where they yell at you multiple times about using your cell phone is usually the only way I can focus on a movie. Of course, the same thing happened when I watched Once; I was distracted, half paying attention, when all of a sudden I heard this:
My head popped up and I stopped everything I was doing. He commanded my full attention with that song, and I probably watched the scene three times in a row. There was no tea drinking. I sat enthralled by this voice, and then stayed that way the whole movie. It only cost $160,000 to make (you know, what James Cameron spends weekly on houseplants) and it took them about three weeks to shoot. There’s no pretense, no false emotion, everything about it is just so . . . true. Honest. The story, the acting, and most importantly, the music; Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are so raw and passionate and extraordinarily talented that I don’t know how you cannot either 1.) be completely jealous of them or 2.) cry. If you haven’t seen it, you have to as soon as you can.
The movie, being as honest as it is, makes it hard to differentiate reality from script, and a lot of it is truthful: struggling musicians and a love story that doesn’t end the way you necessarily think it should. In concert they are just as unassuming and grateful and . . . sweet . . . as they appear in the film. They (which was a mesh of Glen Hansard’s original band The Frames plus Markéta Irglová and a guest brass section) played for over two and a half hours, and it was so much fun seeing how excited and thankful they were to be playing Radio City Music Hall. I can’t express how unbelievably talented Glen Hansard really is. Along with their own material from various albums, he played a few Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen songs . . . and somehow made them better, a feat which I wasn’t really aware was possible. He has complete control of his voice, loudly growling at one moment and quietly whispering the next note. Markéta Irglová’s delicate voice is the perfect balance and is the glue that holds everything together.
Like any proper Irishman, Hansard is also a master storyteller. He himself is 40, and he talked about the struggles his band, The Frames, had really becoming successful. They weren’t getting to where they needed to be, and when you’re talented and hard working and know that you’re just as good if not better than so many other people out there who are making it, you get angry. You get frustrated. You take on a “me against the world” mentality. He said they spent years like that, stuck, pissed off, bitter. And then Markéta Irglová came into the picture “like a small bird who landed on their shoulder”, and quietly provided that missing link that they needed.
It’s true, and it really spoke to me. Sometimes you fight and fight and fight and nothing changes, but then something totally unexpected comes along and quietly provides the balance you didn’t realize you were missing. I feel like John and I are in that place right now – we’re both angry (thankfully not with each other), fighting the world, unsure where we’re going to be in six months or a year or, geez, even ONE month, just waiting for that bird to fly on our shoulders.
At this point, the only thing birds tend to do with me is to take a crap on my head. I really wish that were a metaphor and that it hadn’t actually happened six times in the last two years. Oh well, at least I can listen to pretty music while I wait for them to stop being such assholes. Stupid prehistoric freaks.
The ended the night with “The Parting Glass”, and I left feeling inspired.Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company. And of all the harm that ere I’ve done, alas was done to none but me. And all I’ve done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall. So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.