From the Newsletter by Phil Crossey
I've never been a big fan of The Frames. Not big enough to put myself in the same bracket as their growing legion of reverential devotees who stand in quiet awe at every concert.
Some of their songs, and in particular their last album Burn The Maps, have been good. But not that good.
The fans mouth lyrics under their breaths in an almost cult-like manner, never missing a beat and jealously following the band they feel is their own. Glen Hansard is their high priest, the band's vocalist and its emotional centre. The frontman, who some might feel is too self-knowing to be enigmatic, is however a born performer.
Not unlike an alternate-universe Bono, he knows how to almost effortlessly work a crowd, but he has a self-effacing side that makes him uncomfortable with the posturing.
That doesn't mean he is a stranger to stadium shows, and he often plays up to the image of a shy singer in a manner that could generously be described as annoying.
A few too many of those gazing-into-thefardistance looks I fear.
Away from the grandstanding, he does quiet solo acoustic gigs that are broken up with chat and off-the-cuff storytelling. His latest return to Northern Ireland at Lisburn's Island Arts Centre next Wednesday, is, thankfully, a solo affair. I've been in the presence of enough mediocre singer/songwriters to know that when you just have a man and an acoustic guitar on stage, more often than not you're in for a bad night.
Hansard is different however. He is the consummate entertainer.
Not in a Robbie Williams jump around like an idiot way, he just makes the crowd feel comfortable. He connects. Conveying the intimacy and energy you want from an acoustic gig with tender moments that never descend into schmaltz, Hansard is built for this sort of thing.
He also brings some great tunes. Frames' songs, and its a rare phenomenon this, sound better without the band. Stripped down to their elemental components of guitar and voice, they have a new depth and resonance. They also have the benefit of a comfortable distance from some of the more questionable aspects of the Frames' live show, with their tendency for artsy posturing and overinstrumentation The songs may be smaller, but they're more perfectly formed. Like cocktail sausages. So much so that they sound overdressed when you hear the full-on versions. One or two classic covers are thrown in by Hansard to keep proceedings ticking over. These shows can clock in at over two hours but, unusually for such things, the time seems to fly in. No mean feat, given the number of times I've sat through such gigs fidgeting, clock-watching and wondering just how damning my review is going to be. Hansard is one of the more pleasant ways to spend an evening.
There are plenty of such artists who would do well to turn up at this gig with pen and a notepad. Hansard is in Northern Ireland as part of the Music Revolution festival at the Island Arts Centre.