Words and Pictures by Thomas Hauner
As far as venerated venues go, Radio City is pretty much it. It’s the pinnacle of every tour no matter how many times it’s been conquered, bestowing a child-like exuberance to practically all those who grace its stage. So it was for Josh Ritter who opened the evening. Though he’s as excited and sincere as a schoolboy for nearly every show, Ritter was equally courageous by trying out half new material. His new folk narratives (“The Curse”, “Annabelle Lee”) carried over well but “Girl in the War” remains a thing of beauty, and it instilled a quiet contemplative reverence in the crowd.
Currently known as, performing as, and touring as the Swell Season, Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard—along with his band, the Frames—performed for over two and a half hours in a set that was as impressive in its scope as its intimacy, energy, and length. Unconditionally grateful for the sell-out Radio City crowd, Hansard was as charming and chatty as his character in “Once”. Likewise, Irglova was the introvert to his extroversion, containing her giddiness while Hansard bounced around the stage, trying to be as animated as possible for the video-screen-less third mezzanine. Between the two of them they had enough charm for a residency. Musically Hansard pushed the boundaries of his husky vocals when he sang “Say It to Me Now” solo and entirely unplugged after another one of his epic song prefaces. Irglova was succinct and plugged in when she sang, “If You Want Me”, letting her voice run into a gorgeous harmony with Hansard’s. With the help of Hansard’s longtime band the Frames—and a brass section—they played “Low Rising” and, to the excitement of many in the crowd, Springsteen’s “Drive All Night”—the latter as an effort to play a locally relevant cover at every show. Naturally they performed “Falling Slowly” during their encore—seemingly completing much of the crowd’s preconceptions about the duo—however the ensemble’s recapitulation of the Irish traditional, “Parting Glass”, was the more memorable finale.