Back in September, Glen Hansard sold out Vicar Street with two solo gigs, both of which ended up in a joyous musical mess of old friends, former flames and even one elderly Spanish busker. The Dubliner can’t comprehend being in front of an audience unless he’s sharing the experience with at least a few of his musical equals, so it’s no surprise that Monday evening’s full band show makes for a fairly crowded Vicar Street stage.
As well as regulars like saxophonist Michael Buckley and trombone master Curtis Fowlkes, Glen’s joined by a host of others including Javier Mas, right-hand man of the late Leonard Cohen. “I first saw Len in the National Stadium when I was 15, and it changed everything,” Glen tells the crowd.
Leonard’s death has clearly made a mark on the singer, and the gig is peppered with stories and cover songs in tribute to a fallen hero. Indeed, we’re barely ten minutes in before we’re treated to ‘Bird On The Wire’, and Glen later clears the stage to join Javier for a perfect rendition of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ and ‘Who By Fire’. Among the covers is one of Glen’s own songs, the beautiful ‘Her Mercy’, which he tells us he wrote on a flight from Sydney to Auckland, scribbling the lyrics down in the back of a Cohen biography. “The song was very much for Leonard,” he says.
Glen takes a break later in the evening to make way for performances from friends Inni-K and Loah, although his efforts to get long-time fan John Byrne on stage don’t go quite so smoothly. John’s invited up to the mic thanks to the determination of his missus, who Glen tells us emailed ahead of time to rave about his singing abilities, but when the poor lad launches into ‘Falling Slowly’, he’s soon stopped. That particular number is being saved for a very familiar face to Hansard fans, Markéta Irglová, who comes out on stage shortly after and stays by Glen’s side for most of the gig.
Another presence throughout the evening is Mic Christopher, who passed away 15 years ago this week. Although it’s Tuesday night’s show that’s officially dedicated to Mic – with a line-up that Glen tells us has grown arms and legs since the gig was announced back in the summer – Monday’s audience share in the tribute too, thanks to the rousing performance of ‘Heyday’ that just about rounds off the evening.
With Glen though, the night’s never quite finished, and even after the lights come up he’s back on stage again with the full band, Marketa, Loah, Inni-K and support act Lisa O’Neill (no John Byrne this time, despite Glen’s pleas) for another Leonard tribute, ‘So Long Marianne’. With the clocks ticking over past midnight, even the Vicar Street bar staff give up hope of an early finish and come in for a look. This stage is Glen’s domain, and he’ll do it all again tomorrow with an even bigger crew by his side.
Glen Hansard photographed for State by Mark Earley