Category: Archive

Believe it, Glen

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

With humble hellos and the obligatory, “we’re from Ireland,” Dublin’s Frames took the stage at Irving Plaza last Sunday during a stop on their fall tour of the U.S. and Canada.
It took all but three songs for the five-piece to realize they were preaching to the choir, as the fans started to come out of the woodwork, singing along, hands raised and exalting one of the best bands to come out of Ireland.
At slightly over 1,000-person capacity, Irving Plaza is a perfectly sized venue for the Frames. They may easily fill larger spaces on tour here and in Ireland, but this show was an opportunity to let singer Glen Hansard see his adoring fans up close, many of whom never missed an opportunity to help him out with backing vocals.
The band started the show with some darker tracks from their moody latest offering “Burn the Maps,” which was a winner with critics when it was released worldwide last February.
Opening with “Keepsake,” the band let the crowd simmer a bit before launching into the louder, more anthemic songs they are known for. Still, the new material is carefully worked and displayed the band’s melodic prowess. Noodling guitars and a slow-burning violin play well off Hansard’s mostly hushed vocals.
Also played early, “Dream Awake” built into a rattler of a crescendo, and showed off drumming chops and showed that violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire is integral part of the Frames, and he knows it. His gaunt build belies his instrument’s place in the Frame’s considerable repertoire, and provides an unexpected burst from time to time, but he does his best work in slow, building material.
Built into the band’s live show perfectly, Mac Con Iomaire kept the melodramatics that are all too often associated with an electric violin to a minimum. Much of the band’s songs have intricate layers that toy with loud and soft at the same time, and are usually successful.
The best was yet to come, however. By they time they launched into “Lay Me Down,” the proverbial gauntlet was thrown. The crowd sang along sweetly like a primary school chorus, and Hansard never seems to believe what he is hearing when they do.
Hansard, who would probably eat, sleep and host a talk show on stage if given the chance, was clearly in his element once he realized the sold-out crowd was there to see his band.
There was a noticeable lack of the anecdotes that Hansard is famous for using to introduce his songs during live shows, but the crowd seemed entertained enough with what the Frames did give them.
This past year’s touring, as well as a long history together, that has enabled the Frames to put on such a solid show. Now 15 years on, with the exception of newer members, the band is no stranger to touring hard, and manages to never come across as bored.
Hansard is as emotive a lead singer as there ever was, which is in stark contrast to his band, most of whom remain fairly staid. That said, the music was a good balance of each instrument doing its part, and was never overwhelming or droning. Bassist Joey Doyle warmed up about halfway through, and lent his vocals to a few songs, but for the most part is was Hansard’s show.
His command managed to translate to the audience, who earnestly shushed the talkers in the crowd when Hansard launched into “What Happens When The Heart Just Stops,” which even he found amusing.
The show was in danger of falling flat with some dreamier songs at the set’s midpoint, but the rowdy “Pavement Tune” got things back on track, and won over any non-believers in the audience by song’s end.
The song’s final chant of “I want/my life/to make/more sense” was in a sense a toast to the good time, with both audience and Hansard waving their hands in the air.
The encore was worth sticking around for, as Hansard introduced a song he had written with Damien Rice, while the two men’s bands toured together last year. “Leave” was a classic combination of the two prolific songwriters’ styles, with a simple guitar setting up the yarn of yet another lost lover.
Perhaps the best argument for the strength of the Frames’ live show was during the closer, “Star Star.”
It was truly one for the books as the song’s simple beauty reduced the most hardened construction workers and barmen in the crowd to teary-eyed messes, and the faint sound of buttons texting the girlfriend back home could be heard over Hansard’s still-heartfelt lyrics.
“I can’t believe we’re getting New York to sing,” he said in disbelief at one point. But with that kind of effect, was it really that surprising?

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