The Swell Season – Royal Festival Hall 26/10/2010

Tonight I learned that SONG AND PERFORMANCE go hand in hand and if either of these are taken as being any less vital than the other; you wont sway anyone. Listen to the song above and you should get it.

This London show just secured my thoughts that The Swell Season are a world-class act that don’t have many superiors when it comes to producing a memorable live show. They are designed for the stage, as they can hold your attention for the best part of two hours. The set was outstanding from start to finish – the way it was structured, performed, dynamics had been carefully planned and visually it stayed fresh with subtle technical enhancement. Vocal performances were second to none and Glen Hansard has the most extensive tonality in his voice of anyone you can hear. The perfect blend of sweet and sour vocal between Glen and Marketa give you all you need to keep you thoughtful and feeling uplifted throughout. Making the show unique by referring to current things made you feel that the event was special which is always appreciated if conveyed in a genuine fashion. “There’s a picture in the hallway backstage of ‘?’, we all kissed it on the way out here”. The story-telling was fitting and his metaphors delivered without the feeling you are being preached to.

They came on stage and created the most pure environment where you felt like you were sat with your family watching TV. Glen is one of those “once in a while” personalities whose naturalistic character is infectious and has the gift of putting his audience at ease. He is like the David Jason of the music world who has the ability to make you cry one minute and laugh the most unexpected moment. At the intense peak of a serious natured song, he will add light-hearted quips to release the tension. It is then that you may or may not realize but you are being taken on an emotional roller-coaster ride. The spontaneous manner in which he delivers his wit simply earns him extra kudos, as he TAKES RISKS! With the aid of his well exercised diaphragm he managed to fill the Royal Festival Hall without a microphone when he decided to play a song whilst leaning off the front of stage with just his acoustic guitar. During a performance, pulling these kinds of stunts – which could go either way – is a brave move; but once it’s clear the crowd is with him all the way there is no stopping his additional flavourings. The one thing he does that I don’t see very often in live music concerts is he ALLOWS THE AUDIENCE TO BREATHE and doesn’t go too much in one direction.

People felt free to shout out song requests and make direct banter in between songs. The audience really were part of the performance and it was like re-living a show from Shakespeare’s time. There were moments where I found myself juxtaposed between band and audience; almost expecting Glen to invite everyone up on stage for a sing-song. Many times the band had the entire crowd to their feet and willingly participating with harmony parts.

Glen really takes the reins as he holds a great stage presence whilst humbly leading the band through the set. The fact that he knew exactly when to lighten the mood of the performance when the songs reached their peak of seriousness showed his awareness and connection with the audience. He sensed when you are ready for a change of scene. Also there were times during the set when some band members left the stage to give others a moment in the spotlight, this worked well and broke the set up nicely.

These songs are so far from Hollywood and it is their honesty that draw people in. When confronted with tales of real life people will give their time to embrace what is on offer. The encore was remarkably well received and you could feel that both the band and audience didn’t want the show to end as they left stage still playing their instruments on their last song of the evening. This band are all about mixing the rough with the smooth and the band compliment each other so well that even the non musicians leaving the auditorium either wanted to go and start a band / run away and join The Swell Season.

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