A Photographer’s Look Back at the Glen Hansard Concert

I had been pining for months since I had learned Glen Hansard was coming back to Philly with his The Wild Willing Tour. After brushing off his music twice before, he quickly became a musical hero whose artistry seemed to speak directly to my soul.   

Although I don’t seem to recall this interaction in the least, apparently NPR had done a story on him and my wife loved his song “Falling Slowly,” which we played in the car. When she pushed me on it, I dismissed it. A friend also recommended him. Again, I didn’t retain it. 

However, perhaps close to a year later, this same friend mentioned him again to me in reply to a Facebook post about what artist inspires you as a human or on a deeper level. It was something like that. Chris, the friend, really talked him up. For whatever reason, this time it stuck with me. So much so that I drove 45 minutes that day to the only Barnes & Noble in the area that had a copy of his famous  “Once” on DVD.   

I watched it that night. And the following day, I bought the digital version of the soundtrack and almost burnt it out. Not sure how I went from blowing him off to then becoming almost like a cult follower. 

Regardless, I was now all in. I brought that friend, Chris, with me to see him live. I owed him that much, right? I wasn’t sure what to expect from his live show or the opener.  I did know that I would not miss it.   

Arriving at the Merriam Theater, it became very clear that Glen had amassed a serious following in Philly. We made our way to our seats. I determined my shooting points for the show, then just waited. The house lights went out and next thing I knew, Glen came out with just an acoustic guitar. I thought to myself, “No opener?” I certainly wasn’t complaining. He got to the mic and launched immediately into a lively version of “Say it to Me Now,” which I knew from the “Once” sound track. 

Glan Hansard pulls you in right away.  After he ended the song, he thanked everyone for coming in early for the show.

He then began to talk about the opening act, Junior Brother, an eclectic singer/songwriter from County Kerry, who would go on to thank Glen for lending him his guitar to use that night. JB also thanked the crowd for coming to see his show, which offered sometimes humorous songs and stories done with an acoustic guitar and foot tambourine for an overarching folk sound.   

When Glen took the stage again, he started with a fully electric “Fool’s Game.” Having this preconceived idea of him as perhaps docile based on the “Once” sound track, I was blown away with just how high-energy, charismatic and animated his show can be.

Early on in his show, he mentioned that he was unsure about booking Philly again “this soon” as he was just here last year. The filled theater quickly showed him the love that this city has for him.

His show ended close to midnight, about three hours after it began. 

Glen interwove various tales, sometimes leading him to other off-topic tales.

The one that really struck me was when he spoke about eventually becoming pen pals with someone in the military who was deployed. Admittedly, he confessed much of the communication was one-way, that the soldier really was just looking for someone to listen to him, as he shared what was going on during deployment. 

It’s because of this that Glen continued this interaction but then became alarmed when the communication stopped. For some time, Glen was unsure of the fate of his friend until one night after a show, the solider came up and greeted him, offering him great relief. 

It was an amazing show with incredible music and wonderful tales. 

To see his entire set list, click here.

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