Kevin Norris

The Swell Season @ The Wiltern 11/19/09

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Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova have been on a rollercoaster ride ever since they stared in the indie flick “Once.” The film that was based on two working-class immigrants propelled the duo into super-stardom. Their new found success transpired into them winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly,” their soundtrack for the movie reaching gold, and eventually the formation of The Swell Season. A lot of the Swell Season’s appeal is attributed to the romantic chemistry Hansard and Irglova have displayed onscreen and in their recordings. However, before the release of 2009’s “Strict Joy,” the Hollywood romance ended for the couple, yet they still continued as a musical act.

At first Hansard and Irglova seemed to still be romantically involved when they walked out hand-in-hand and performed an intimate version of “Fallen from the Sky,” but it would only be a facade as the nights main theme of separation would ultimately outweigh any feelings of love between the two.

For most of their packed show at the Wiltern, Irglova exhibited a bashful innocence as she stayed glued to her piano, only breaking free for solo performances of “If You Want Me” and “Fantasy Man.” Her counterpart, Hansard became quite the opposite once backing band the Frames (Hansard’s main act) reached the stage for “Low Rising.” With its sexy groove and Marvin Gaye “Sexual Healing” ad-libbed lyrics, the opening song off “Strict Joy” produced a quixotic atmosphere that lingered throughout most of the nights songs.

The detachment of Irglova allowed Hansard to take the show into his own hands with his witty humor, pre-song explanations and sing-along directions. It would eventually be deemed the “Glen Hansard Experience” when the curly red-haired Irishman dropped his mic and unplugged for the spine tingling solo performance of “Say it to Me.” Hansard rustic and commanding voice packed so much raw energy and passion during the song that it had every girl in attendance screaming “I love you, marry me!” – wishing that they could fill the romantic void that Irglova left.

Hansard continued his dominance with solo renditions of Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me” and Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” bringing a new up beat perspective to both with the aggressive shredding of his acoustic guitar and strained vocals. It wasn’t until the spontaneous cover of Justin Timberlake”s “Cry Me a River,” and final song of the main set, “Falling Slowly,” that the spotlight was shined back onto Irglova. Nevertheless, she was once again quickly stripped of her limelight when “Forgetting Sarah Marshal” star Jason Segle surprisingly performed a hilarious woe-is-me power ballad. At first Segle graciously stroked the piano keys as he serenaded the crowd with the sorrows of being a lonely but rich movie star before exploding into a provocative romp that climaxed with a dick joke pertaining to his nude scene in “Sarah Marshall.” It felt like Segle’s appearance was prompted to bring light to the distress Hansard and Irglova displayed on stage towards each other. Whatever the attentions might have been, the song was among many that made the night a magical and memorable experience for those in attendance.

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