By Chuck Cox
Front Row Contributor
I was nowhere near ready for the first time I saw Glen Hansard play live. In fact, it was pretty much a fluke.
Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder had scheduled a solo show at Music Hall at Fair Park in early 2012. I wasn’t able to attend that original show, but I was free for the rescheduled date, in November. Hansard opened.
At that point, I wasn’t at all familiar with the Irish singer/songwriter. I had not seen 2007’s “Once,” which he stared in with Marketa Irglova. The duo scored an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly.”
However, after those 45 minutes four years ago, I was an instant Hansard fan.
So, when he scheduled Saturday night’s show at the Majestic Theatre, I knew my second Hansard concert was finally going to happen. But I still wasn’t prepared for how completely blown away I was by seeing him as a headliner.
I’ve already seen some great shows in 2016, but this one was just on a different plane. So much so that I still have no idea which part of the concert was my favorite. There were just way too many from which to choose.
One of the things that sets Hansard apart from other artists is his unyielding honesty and insight into what makes us, as humans, tick. He has an uncanny ability to put those thoughts into songs that both touch nerves and warm hearts. Plus, he is a great player with a great voice.
The set, nearly two-and-a-half hours strong, was a mix of cuts from his latest album, “Didn’t He Ramble,” several covers and snippets of covers and other songs from his career, wonderful stories and a little bit (thankfully, not too much) of political talk that were all tied together with the common thread of being just spectacular. He was backed by six additional musicians, including a wonderful string section.
The first three songs — “Just to Be the One,” “Winning Streak and “My Little Ruin” — are all off “Didn’t He Ramble.” After playing a song from the “Once” soundtrack, “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” Hansard led into “Paying My Way” with a great story about his dad being a working man who loved the weekends and a pint or two, the inspiration for the song.
There were also tales of a female bartender in New York City before “Renata,” and playing at Cain’s Ballroom and visiting the Woody Guthrie Museum prior to a cover of Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man.” He worked in a jab at Donald Trump’s proposed wall during the latter after talking about Guthrie’s lyrics about Trump’s father, his former landlord. Let’s just say Woody did not have a high opinion of the elder Trump.
Next was “McCormack’s Wall,” my favorite song off the latest album, which included a story about breaking into a boarded up Irish castle with a new female friend and a bottle of wine stolen from Damien Rice’s dressing room.
I guess if I absolutely, positively had to pick that favorite moment, what came next would probably be the one. After dedicating the next song to the late Gene Wilder, Hansard combined a cover of “Star Star,” by his former band, The Frames, with “Pure Imagination” from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and dEUS’ “Hotellounge (Be the Death of Me).”
And when Hansard recited some of Wilder’s dialogue from the movie during the song, the chills appeared and the hair raised. It was truly magical. As if that wasn’t enough, he followed that up with the aforementioned “Falling Slowly” to close the main set. Wow.
The encore started with Hansard playing guitar by himself. He did “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” with part of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” which became a sing-a-long, and “Say it to Me Now.” He then played “Stay the Road” at the front of the stage without a microphone.
Hansard then brought out former The Frames member Colm Mac Con Iamorie, an Irish instrumentalist who plays violin and guitar and played a great 40-minute set, for an another instrumental before the two of them sang a duet on a “Texas song,” Roy Acuff’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” which is still one of Willie Nelson’s biggest hits.
Then came, “Her Mercy,” another stellar track off “Didn’t He Ramble.” The rousing tune, which builds to a fever pitch, seemed like it would be the show closer. Instead, Hansard and the entire band came out to the front of the stage and played “Song of Good Hope” unplugged.
The crowd was very much into the show, showing its approval after each and every song. “Thank you, Dallas,” Hansard said at the end of the show. “We needed this tonight, and you delivered it.”
Hansard is such an amazing talent. I already can’t wait to see him again.
As he channeled Willie Wonka, Hansard really kind of summed up the night perfectly: “Close your eyes. Count to three. Make a wish. We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams. So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
It’s a little bit less weary world with Hansard and his music in it.