It was a little over a month ago when I made the short walk from the Tripwire's New York office over to the Gramercy Theater to buy a ticket to Glen Hasnard's lesser-known group The Swell Season: the duo starring Hasnard and girlfriend Marketa Irglova. Having made the discovery of the group only days earlier, I was stunned to find myself gazing at the bold SOLD OUT beneath the band's name, with scalpers loitering down the block. The realization set in that I was not the only New Yorker haunted by the beautiful soundtrack of Once, the film directed by The Frames' former bassist John Carney, and starring Hasnard and Irglova. While my recent introduction to Hasnard may seem backwards to longtime fans of The Frames, his passion in song and on film made me feel as though I had been following the band from their start in Dublin in the early 90's. Leading up to The Frames (again SOLD OUT!) show at Webster Hall last night, I continued to whet my appetite with Marketa and Glen's splendid film chemistry twice more, while passing my days with The Frames' critically acclaimed live album Setlist.
The set began promptly at 10 with "Rise," a track off the group's most recent album, The Cost. Sounding tight from the first note alongside Glen, Violinist Colm MacConlomaire and bassist Joseph Doyle were magnificent in sound and stage presence. While many in the audience were familiar with Glen's inspirations for each track, his tale of a gravesite purchase for an ex-girlfriend preceding "Lay Me Down" as well as his pinpoint description of drunkenness prior to "Rent Day Blues" ("Being drunk is f***ing awful, but getting there is f***ing brilliant") were both certainly endearing. Searing through the well known "Gold Bless Mom" and "Revelate," the first set ended without surprise.
As MacConlomaire ended his hair-raising solo piece "Blue Shoes," ("I'd like to dedicate it to the people who are gonna be lonesome tomorrow"), the piano that had been sitting idle on the stage got its chance as Hasnard invited his girlfriend to the stage for The Swell Season's hit "Falling Slowly." Never far from Glen's gaze, the duo's stunning harmony was both idyllic and inspiring. After a brief kiss, which met the crowd's approval, Irglova stayed for another of the duo's most compelling tracks, "When Your Mind's Made Up." Exiting the stage as The Frames wound down their set, Hasnard's second half returned for the finale "Red Chord."
Although the audience certainly consisted of those already converted to The Frames live show, my path from Once to last night's performance is one I will not soon forget.