Glen Hansard casts a spell on his SF fans

Glen HansardBy Benjamin Wallen //

Glen Hansard with Aoife O’Donovan //
The Masonic – San Francisco
November 10th, 2015 //

Glen Hansard is a gem. I first discovered his music in the film “Once” as many Americans did, and I quickly became enamored with it. The music to “Once” was the first soundtrack I had bought in years, and I played it regularly on repeat.

Hansard’s gentle music felt so very real, far more real than so much of the American music that came out at the time of “Once”. Authenticity oozes from Hansard’s music, and seeing him at The Masonic, my first show there since the remodel, was a real treat.

Opening the show was Aoife O’Donovan, a singer and guitar player in the folk-rock realm. A spotlight and a guitar was all she needed to command the crowd’s attention with her soft, pillowy voice warming everyone up. The sound at The Masonic was on point for O’Donovan’s set and really showcased the venue’s acoustics. Since the show, I have been falling backwards into O’Donovan’s other work, which includes the music she creates with the Boston-based progressive bluegrass/string band Crooked Still.

Hansard took the stage with a single light blasting from aside the stage. The mood inside the room was haunting and somber as he sang with no mic, summoning the crowd to a silence. Last time I saw someone with this much power was Bonnie Raitt singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2013.

Glen Hansard

I am a sucker for Irish music and the voice that comes with it. I found out about The Clancy Brothers, the influential Irish folk group popular during the 60’s, while watching a Bob Dylan documentary that convinced me to listen to more folk and Irish music. There is something about the Irish that is incredibly welcoming. After visiting Ireland a few years back, I fell in love with the rolling hills, the pubs and the people. My first night waiting in a lobby for a friend had my first encounter with a drunken Irishmen. I couldn’t understand a word he said, but it was a magical moment between the number of laughs and smiles that came from both of us in that fun, yet challenging conversation. There is no doubt a great amount of love to an Irish laugh.

Listening to Hansard and his band is a soul smile. His ability to play music with delicacy and power is astounding. The night was beyond magical. The Masonic was the perfect venue for Hansard and his band. The vibe onstage felt as though you were standing on the corner in Dublin watching a street band playing music at night under street lights.

It is easy to say magic when you speak of music, but there is something also hauntingly exhausting about Hansard’s music. You can feel both the struggle and the hope dancing around, but it feels so good. You don’t ever feel alone while listening to his ballads. He must be seen live. You can listen to his music constantly at home, but that feeling you will take away from his live show will stay with you for days and weeks, like a warm sweater of good.

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