Swell Season At Malkin Bowl 08/22/2010 Reviewed By Heather Welsh

The Swell Season at Malkin Bowl Sunday 22nd Aug.

Glen, The Frames and Black Francis

As I write this The Swell Season are just about coming to the end of their North American tour, and luckily for Vancouverites, this included a special performance outdoors at the Summer-special, soft-seater Malkin Bowl. The gorgeous Czech Marketa Irglova (complete with hot new pixie hair cut) and Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard blew me away. Support came from none other than The Pixies’ frontman Black Francis/Frank Black/Charles Thompson!

I, inexcusably, slept through getting to Stanley Park in time to see Black Francis perform alone. Luckily, he made an appearance later in the night but I will get to that later…

The first song was a Pixies cover (Cactus) by Glen and Marketa alone. Immediately it was obvious that Glen’s voice contrasts so well with Marketa’s. His is very Irish; strong, and impossibly loud (he even played one song without a mic!). Marketa’s voice is as delicate and soft as her playing. I knew how great they could be live from the film that thrust them into the limelight; ‘Once’. But hearing them together on stage was really moving and at the same time so much fun.

They played a couple of songs from the newer album, and of course the crowd pleasers from the film. Personal favourites included the more-recent single ‘Low Rising’, Marketa’s haunting ‘If You Want Me’, the decisive ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’, and tear-jerker, ‘Once’. Glen hardly needed a microphone at all, his voice is so powerful. Despite the sad undertones in most of their songs, jokes were thrown about on stage and when Glen asked the sound guy to turn down the piano whilst Marketa was playing (He cited an abundance of sustain, saying “It just doesn’t sound good”) she pretended to be upset and stormed off stage. Then Glen did a little “I’m sorry” face at her whilst still singing. What a pair of cuties!

After the first song Glen invited some of the audience to get more intimate and sit up on the stage, so a few lucky ones got a few close-up songs before security broke up the party. Other highlights included a little 4 year old girl climbing on stage and dancing around, seemingly unaware of her audience. It was adorable!

Later on in the set, at the request of the audience, Glen broke into ‘Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy’ saying it felt like the whole evening had been leading up to that short ditty. And as part of the encore, we got to see Black Francis after all. They made a duet of ‘Where Is My Mind’ that was prefaced by the story of how Glen discovered the Pixies as a rabble-rousing teenager in Dublin and how much their music meant to him. It was the perfect finale! Black Francis leant in to snap him and Glen with his iPhone. I’ll have to see if I can find it on the internet somewhere….

Seeing The Swell Season live lived up to all of my expectations. Marketa was quiet and gorgeous, Glen lead the show, the fiddle was beautiful and the Glen/Marketa singing combo brought out a little eye juice. I suggest that you grab a chance to see this band live with both hands!!

-Heather Welsh

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