Music can often conjure emotions from the depths of the soul. It can make one feel powerful or it can strip a being to the core. It feels like the summer days on backcountry roads that I remember from my youth. It’s the familiar smell of mom’s cooking. It’s the warmth of a sunrise or the splash of cold water. When I see an amazing show, I feel all of these at once, yet it feels like home; it feels right.
Seeing Glen Hansard at the Masonic in San Francisco last week was familiar. From the moment the music started, it felt like I had been there for years. It felt like I was supposed to have been there all my life. Glen and his band stepped out to their places but it didn’t begin with a bang or crash. It began with a man side-stepping the microphone to sing a lonely melody.
That loneliness was broken by the slow swell of strings- like a gentle finger on the rim of the most exquisite crystal glass. There was a pause and then horns—no light, no mic, just music above a whisper. We had become part of the show, part of the pulse, and there was no place else to be.
Hansard certainly used his time to introduce a handful of tunes from the new album “Didn’t He Ramble,” but it was nuanced and peppered with older songs any fan would know. “Winning Streak” made an early debut in the set and I hung on the words “May the Devil’s eye pass you by.” Its roots-country feel was like a cup of hot tea on a winter day—warming me to the core.
“When Your Mind’s Made Up” brought the show to a fever pitch and punctuated the night with a raucous yell. That yell led into a pause and breaths and a quiet intimacy like when Hansard sat at the piano, and told the story behind “McCormick’s Wall.” It began sweet and slow with a violin in accompaniment and then turned into an Irish Jig.
There were so many great moments that would take too much time to share. But I can say that my favorite was after the last song. We all knew there was an encore coming but I was shocked when Hansard showed up in the balcony with his acoustic guitar to sing “Say It to Me Now” and “Gold.”
There is an idea of what a rock star does and Hansard proved to do the opposite of that so many times in this show. When he was supposed to start the show with a bang, he started with a whisper; when he was supposed to do a rocking encore with his band, he did a song with just his acoustic. Sometimes bucking the trend and being you is what makes someone great. Glen Hansard shows himself at every moment on stage and through every song on “Didn’t He Ramble.” When asked what my favorite show ever was, I will say: “remember when Glen Hansard came to the Masonic?”