Irishman Glen Hansard, lead singer and songwriter of the famed Irish rock group the Frames, and his musical partner Marketa Irglova, better known together as the Swell Season, took to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island last Sunday.
The duo played an hour-long set to a raucous crowd of over 8,500 festival-goers. The Swell Season were among a phenomenal line-up of acts on the Mainstage including The Avett Brothers, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Richie Havens, and The Levon Helm Band.
The wiry and energetic Glen set the scene for the dynamic set when he beckoned the crowd at the front of the stage to remain in front. Glen played the part of Seanchaí (Irish storyteller), regaling us with stories from the road and of childhood experiences that shaped his songwriting.
The duo reprised their roles from the international hit film Once as Glen hollered and jumped, pounding away on his trademarked worn and beaten guitar as Marketa cooed, hidden behind a piano aside him. They performed fan favorites from the hit movie Once including “Falling Slowly”, “When Your Mind’s Made Up”, and “Leave”. A highlight of the show was Marketa grabbing a guitar and the spotlight from Glen to sing lead vocals on her penned hit “If You Want Me” as Glen took over piano duties.
Songs from the band’s lastest rock album, “Strict Joy”, were sprinkled into the set as well. “Low Rising”, “Into The Pull”, and “Back Break”, were all crowd pleasers. These more upbeat numbers require more of a full band sound. The Frames, Glen’s original band, adeptly fulfilled this need.
Glen had some surprises up his sleeve as he broke into a barnburner of a Willie Nelson cover wailing away on a harmonica. The Van Morrison classic “Into the Mystic” also made its way into the set complete with the backing of a soulful brass section from the Levon Helm Band.
The set ended with a very moving musical tribute to the deceased Irish folk legend Liam Clancy. Glen, Marketa, and the Frames were joined onstage by members of the the popular folk rock outfit The Low Anthem, and Pete Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, in a festival sing-a-along of the Irish folk classic “The Old Triangle”.
Success and celebrity have not affected Glen and Marketa who showed they still care about their fans by putting on the most engaging and dynamic set of the festival.
Be sure to see them in a city near you. You will not be disappointed