Review: Glen Hansard/The Lost Brothers at the Barbican

From playing the streets of Dublin to concert halls all over the world, Hansard has certainly come a long way.

The Lost Brothers

Irish duo The Lost Brothers seem like the natural opening act for Glen Hansard's emotionally wrenching and confessional songwriting. The pair which consists of Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland are on fine form tonight. Their latest album 'The Passing of The Night' was produced by songwriter extordinaire Brendan Benson and features members of The Cardinals was a success with fans and critics alike.

However, one would be forgiven for being apprehensive tonight, after all can album which features such high caliber guests transfer over into a live setting? Happily though, if anyone had concerns, fears were put aside within the first opening minutes as The Lost Brothers have the remarkable ability of making a large spacious room feel very intimate indeed. Their masterful blend of careful songwriting and tuneful harmonies soon won over the crowd, which were to begin with a tad hesitant to embrace the band. With a touch of the Everly Brothers and the confident stylings of Buddy Holly, The Lost Brothers have the distinctive air of 1950s Rock n' Roll about them. Taking in everything from Chuck Berry influenced diner rock to maudlin music hall, The Lost Brothers make a lasting impact. Throw in a dazzling cover of 'Moon River' and a raucous performance of their own song 'The Goodbye Kid' and tonight they prove why they are very much the critics' darlings of the folk scene.

Glen Hansard

Up next is Hansard himself. Something of an unlikely success story, the musician spent many a day busking on the streets of Dublin before forming cult irish rock band The Frames. Yet, his real breakout moment came courtesy of the touching film 'Once'. The film which saw him partner with singer Marketa Iglova to form the band 'The Swell Season'. 'Once' was much heralded for its arresting soundtrack and the song 'Falling Slowly' went on to win an Academy Award for best song.

Although tonight is officially a solo gig in celebration of Hansard's debut solo album 'Rhythm & Repose', you would be correct in assuming that most, if not all here tonight are listening out primarily for songs from 'Once'. Yet even while this is true, the show itself at the main concert hall of The Barbican sold out weeks ago and material from his debut record is very well received. The album which gained critical praise for its experimental and soulful musicality coupled with Hansard's stark songwriting feels fully realized in a live setting. He is tonight flanked by a spectacular 13 piece band, including a string quartet and horn section.Channeling Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks' by blending jazz, soul and songwriting it is a testament to Hansard affable charm that even with such a large band (that could easily swamp lesser voices) tonight they feel complimentary rather than smothering. On songs such as the stunning 'Song of Good Hope' or The Swell Season's 'Say It To Me Now' Hansard's fierce intensity burns through. The encore which consists of Hansard playing not on the stage but in the crowd unplugged just goes to reinforce his man of the people image.

From playing the streets of Dublin to concert halls all over the world, Hansard has certainly come a long way. In his own words he says he hopes to write "one good song in a lifetime and if you're really ambitious you write ten" . As many in the audience would certainly attest to tonight, Hansard has written his fair share of 'good' songs. He ends the night on a noisy rampage through the crowd singing Leonard Cohen's 'Passing Through'. As Hansard and his band slip away many will remember tonight as a show that mixed joyous fun with emotional intensity.


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