Show Review // The Swell Season at the Wang Theater
Show Review // The Swell Season at the Wang Theater

Show Review // The Swell Season at the Wang Theater

The folk-rock duo Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of The Swell Season played a masterful performance at the Boch Wang Theater in Boston on Friday. They reunited once again with their band performing new music from their upcoming album as well as older music. This included their work from the 2007 Once film’s soundtrack, which brought them to fame. Their opener was Lisa O’Neill, an Irish singer-songwriter who played a set of simple yet powerfully beautiful songs– just her and her guitar. The Swell Season consisted of Irglová singing and on piano, Hansard on guitar, mandolin, and singing. They had a drummer, bass/upright bass player, violinist, and cello player performing with them. It was an emotional night with moments of pure heart-rending rawness and more than a few laughs.

The Wang Theater is a stunning, baroque establishment in the heart of Boston’s Theater District. The place holds 3,500 people and appeared to be at capacity for the evening. A fact that seemed to surprise the band, as they mentioned more than once that they didn’t expect people would come out for the show this time which always drew a laugh from the crowd. For such a gilded space, the theater has modern touches with state-of-the-art lighting as the light on the curtains behind the stage changed from gold to fuchsia, to teal, to red throughout the course of the night. A handful of mini chandeliers added an extra bit of ambiance to the setting.

The Swell Season played a lengthy 23-song set with the two lead singers sometimes trading off while the one who was not performing took a break off stage over the course of more than two hours. The show started with an impassioned rendition of “Lies” from their first album. The harmonies between the lead singers were tight. It drew the audience in right from the start. They went on to perform several of the old favorites together such as “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and “If You Want Me.” Solo, Irglová performed two newer songs “I Leave Everything to You” and “My Roots Go Deep.” Irglová voice is pure and bright, reminiscent of Karen Carpenter. Hansard performed “Leave” as a solo as well as stepping to the front of the stage without amplification of any kind to perform a stripped-down version of “Say It to Me Now.” His voice is rough-hewn and powerful with an incredible range and stamina.

There was plenty of banter between songs once the show had been going for a while. Irglová offered a cookie that she found backstage, meant to celebrate the sold-out show, to a pregnant person in the audience because “you must be hungry by now.” Hansard told a story about his young son before playing “Factory Street Bells.” There was some back and forth with the audience after a rowdy person yelled that he loved the band and Hansard took issue with his tone. There was a hilarious bit when Hansard got an audience member to hold his lyric sheet and even attempt to sing one of their new songs. When it didn’t go so well Hansard quipped “When you do it it’s like an epic poem.” The band received a standing ovation after they performed “Falling Slowly” from the Once Soundtrack for which they won an Academy Award in 2008 for Best Original Song. For the final songs they brought out the opener, Lisa O’Neill, and she sang Sinéad O’Connor’s “Three Babies”, in a fitting tribute to the recently deceased singer, which then led into a heartfelt version of The Dubliner’s “Raglan Road”. There were at least 3 standing ovations with the crowd entirely standing for the final two songs. It was such a beautiful evening. It’s wonderful to see them performing together again–and with new music!

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