The Swell Season: A Review

This review is a little late in coming, but I wanted to share the experience (which was great) as well as some beautiful music that’s been playing on my iTunes over the last few weeks. 

I had the great pleasure of attending The Swell Season in concert in Buffalo, NY on July 27 with some lovely Houghton-ites and, as near as I can tell, half the city of Buffalo.  I exaggerate, of course.  Still, Babeville was packed with local fans of the highly acclaimed and well-loved Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, all awaiting the special live performance of their fantastic tunes.

The Low Anthem kicked off the show with highlights from their album “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin” which features some glorious melodies and creative instrumentation that utilizes a musical saw, clarinets, and the vibes (sometimes bowed by band member Jocie Adams).  The groups mellower pieces were charming rather than sleep-inducing and they included some rocking bluegrass pieces that added some energy to the set.  I’d happily see them again.

The Swell Season provided an absolutely solid show.  Their musicianship is a rarity in contemporary music and every song was as clean and tight live as it is on their albums.  Glen graciously involved the audience on a number of songs, teaching us a few oohs and aahs and choruses and finally the first verse of the haunting Irish song, “Parting Glass.”   Marketa doesn’t quite share Glen’s energy on stage, but there’s no arguing with her skill and passion on the keys.    

The concert was great, the company lovely, and there were only a few complaints following the show.  My only point of contention was that the performance was a bit rote for a live show.  I usually hope for some different instrumentation or a cover song or some serious storytelling when seeing an artist in person.  In many ways, listening to The Swell Season live was much the same as listening to their CD in my apartment. 

A dear friend also noted that they did not perform as many of their newer songs, from the album “Strict Joy,” as one might have expected.  I have to agree; Glen and Marketa seem to have favored the old standards that initially prompted their rise to fame through the 2007 indie film, “Once.”  Those songs are fantastic for sure, but there are some gems on the new album that deserved pride of place.

As I said, a solid performance and well worth the time.  I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorites: “Gold”, from “Once”, and “The Rain”, from “Strict Joy.”  Enjoy!


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