Review and 2015 file photo by Garcia Borgo Photography
Glen Hansard walked on to the stage of the Walt Disney Theater on Sunday evening without his guitar. It was quite a shock to see him solo, the beat up guitar was absent from his hands. The missing instrument served as a symbolic gesture – signaling that the performance would take on a different flavor than that of the usual Glen Hansard performance.
File photo from 2015 by Garcia Borgo Photography (photography was not allowed at the 2018 show)
His “backing band” for the opening song, “Grace Beneath the Pines,” was comprised of 70+ members of the LA Philharmonic and Hansard’s co-star was conductor David Campbell. They accompanied Hansard brilliantly for half of the night, lending their talents especially on songs like “Falling Slowly” and “Gold.” Hansard performed sitting down most of the night, another anomaly for the dynamic Irish singer who usually channels as much energy and enthusiasm with his body as with his vocal chords. However, what remained consistent was Hansard’s powerful voice, it was just as earth-shattering as always. I honestly can’t think of any other singer that can go head-to-head with a 70 piece orchestra and still project his voice perfectly across the music hall with or without a microphone. Another constant, thankfully, was Hansard’s gift for storytelling and sense of humor. He introduced the third song of the evening by saying, “This song is called ‘If You Don’t Like My Potatoes, Why’d You Dig So Deep?’ or ‘ ‘Get Your Big Leg Off Me’ or rather ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up.” The performance of “When Your Mind’s Made Up was one of the highlights of the evening, the audience jumped to their feet and roared with applause at the conclusion of the song – all of their pent-up energy rushing forth. You see, Hansard’s music and vocals have a certain ebb and flow. His music has an energy not unlike that of a wave’s – with a steady rise and thunderous crush, a potent climax just before the end of the song. Usually, audience members clap and whoop throughout the song, noting their appreciation at points of brilliance. But, because it was a concert setting and there was an orchestra behind Hansard, the audience chose to save their applause until the end of the songs. The first half of the night felt a bit stifled due to this set-up, where the powerful performances by Hansard and the LA Phil were only recognized at the conclusion of each song.
The second half of the evening was dedicated to more of Hansard’s compositions but several covers of well-known songs. Before singing Woody Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” Hansard explained the song’s origins: “It was written in 1940 when Guthrie was living in Coney Island and his landlord was a man called Fred Trump. Woody was the gold standard because he was about love. He spoke. He spoke about the issues of the day. There is a journal in Tulsa, Oklahoma with lyrics never published, six pages are about Fred Trump.” He then proceed to cover the song with a bit of creative expression at the end of the song when he sang:
Oh, Trump, he sent the sheriff to my door
Cos I could not pay my rent no more
Like father, like son
And he is rotten to the core
Oh, Trump sent the sheriff to my door
Oh, Trump he wants a travel ban
Wants to close the US borders with his fountain pen
He vilifies the Muslims, he won’t condone the clan
Oh, Trump wants a travel ban
Oh, Trump now he’s talking ’bout the bomb
He’s trying to decide if he’s gonna go talk to Kim Jong Un
Gonna compare the size, who’s got the biggest gun
Oh, Trump talkin’ ’bout the bomb
Oh, Trump he’s as healthy as they come
The results are in, he was born to win, he’s been a genius all along
Can’t believe there is so much healthy goodness in a Big Mac bun
Oh, Trump, as healthy as they come
“Vigilante Man,” garnered not only some of the loudest applause but the biggest laughs of the night.
Another standout moment was when Hansard gave up the stage to his good friend Joe Henry who introduced “Keep Us In Song,” by saying “I happened to be on tour last year during the election. And I was sitting in the lobby of the Hilton with my brother Billy Bragg when the results came in. I knew I had to lean into my community. I sent a text to my mentor Harry Belofante Jr. He sent me a text that said ‘I too am disappointed. I want to remind you that this is not the first time I’ve been disappointed.’ So I wrote this song called ‘Keep Us In Song.”
Hansard will continue on tour with his band (on stage with him in Los Angeles, Javier Mas, Joe Doyle, Stewart Cole, and Romy) for a few more US dates before heading to Brazil for at the end of the month.
Grace Beneath The Pines / Lies / When You’re Mind’s Mad Up / Bird of Sorrow / Song of Good Hope / Her Mercy / Falling Slowly / Gold / This Gift
Time Will Be The Healer / Winning streak / My Little Ruin / Shelter Me / Lowly Deserter / Way back In The Way Back When / Vigilante Man (Woody Guthrie cover) / Wedding Ring / Keep Us in Song (Joe Henry performed song) / High Hope / Passing Through (Pete Seeger cover)