Live Review: Glen Hansard with Colm Mac Con Iomaire at Rialto Theatre, Tucson, AZ – 27th September 2016

By on Wednesday, 12th October 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

In sharp contrast to the sparsely attended gig I saw in Phoenix on the last Monday night in September, that week’s Tuesday night show at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre was packed to the gills, with fans lining up outside over an hour ahead of doors to see Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard. Though Hansard’s fame on American shores came largely from the movie-turned-Broadway-musical ‘Once’, his more recent repertoire, including 2015 album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’, has also been well-received, as evidenced by the large turnout in Tucson on the night.

I was motivated to arrive early to the show myself to see the support act, violinist and composer Colm Mac Con Iomaire. We at TGTF were introduced to Mac Con Iomaire at SXSW 2015, where he regaled us with a memorable riverboat performance hosted by Generator NI. However, those familiar with Glen Hansard’s storied career will know that Mac Con Iomaire is also Hansard’s bandmate in The Frames, and his appearance here was integrated into Hansard’s show even beyond his supporting slot.

"Colm

Mac Con Iomaire played a elegant and pleasantly prolonged opening set of instrumental music that warmed the crowd up nicely, beginning with the lovely ‘Emer’s Dream’ and finishing with ‘Thou Shalt not Carry Timber’, both from his 2008 solo album ‘The Hare’s Corner’. In the middle of his set, he played through several newer pieces from 2015 LP ‘And Now the Weather’, including a bittersweet dedication to his late sister (whom he referred to very quaintly as having been “promoted” to heaven), titled ‘In the Arms of the Angels’. Mac Con Iomaire demonstrated his compositional skill as well as his technical versatility, switching from violin to acoustic guitar for the recently commissioned ‘Solasta’, which he also performed recently for RTÉ Radio 1.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/BeXYAZ8kjBU[/youtube]

Hansard himself took the stage with a large entourage of accompanying musicians, including a string quartet, and opened not with one of his own songs, but with a rearranged version of ‘Sunken Waltz’, originally by Tucson natives Calexico. Having thus successfully charmed his way into the hearts of his Old Pueblo fans, Hansard then dived headlong into his own repertoire, which was no less eagerly anticipated. ‘Paying My Way’ and ‘Renata’ were early highlights of the set, both prefaced by engaging, though possibly somewhat embellished, banter from an Irishman with a willing and captive audience.

Glen Hansard internal orch

Commentary on the currently volatile American political climate was not to be avoided, I suppose, and in very Irish fashion, Hansard dedicated ‘Winning Streak’ to defeated American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Later in the set, he performed an inspired version of Woody Guthrie’s classic ‘Vigilante Man’, with verses altered to name presidential candidate Donald Trump in a rather less than flattering metaphor. However, unlike fellow songwriter Foy Vance in Phoenix earlier in the month, Hansard’s political remarks were met with vocal agreement from the more liberal Tucson crowd.

Glen internal solo

Following a lively and naturally verbose exposition, ‘McCormack’s Wall’ was one of the night’s uptempo focal points. But having been billed as ‘An Intimate Evening with Glen Hansard’, the show included some nice softer moments as well, with ‘Wedding Ring’ making an appearance early in the set and both ‘Falling Slowly’ and a solo acoustic version of ‘Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting’ coming later on.

Near the end of the show, a dedicated and clearly emotional fan in the front row took advantage of a quiet spell to offer a book of her poetry to Hansard. In a genuine moment of personal interaction, Hansard not only took the poems but invited the young lady onstage to read one of them, while he accompanied on guitar. Flustered but determined to be courageous, she accepted, and was rewarded with an experience that she will no doubt tell her own stories about for years to come.

Hansard closed the set proper with rousing versions of ‘High Hope’ and my recent favourite ‘Her Mercy’. The more than 2-hour show truly seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and of course the enthusiastic Tucson crowd pleaded for more. With his characteristic warmth and grace, Hansard acknowledged our applause by returning to the stage for a fond and singularly appropriate farewell in the form of ‘Song of Good Hope’.

Glen Hansard set list

A full listing of Glen Hansard’s upcoming worldwide tour dates can be found on his official Facebook. TGTF’s complete archive on Glen Hansard is right through here, and our previous coverage of Colm Mac Con Iomaire is this way.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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