Hitting the streets on a wet cold evening in Milan in search of the Limelight club, the ‘ex’ Propaganda where many a delightful evening had been spent, the future ahead, with an unsettling, ominous Italian election weekend just around the corner, seems as bleak and damp as the weather. But my immediate future was in the club to see Glen Hansard.

What a surprise when inside there’s a big crowd, full of youthful girls and guys, not only in terms of age but in spirit; lots of smiling faces like the “Milanesi” of time yonder. Could it be that we had stepped into some sort of time zone, of a near but happy distant past?

Well Glen Hansard with 11 band members, a 3 man horn section, a 3 girl string section, and the rest from his old band ‘The Frames’, came down the stairs from the balcony above, in unison, with instruments and for over two and a half hours were simply captivating with their musicianship, humour, and dare I say it ‘love’.

Glen with his innate ‘irishness’ ,call it “craic” if you will, a real presence, a distinctly living soulfulness, that engulfs you, magically creating this safe, enchanted world. His honesty in his surprise to find a big, responsive crowd; the way he explained the whys and wherefores of his various songs that he and the band chose to play tonight, with funny and revealing anecdotes and metaphors, just eats you up.

A repertoire that went from early Frames songs, swell season tracks, new stuff from the new solo album ‘Rhythm and Repose’, passing through covers like ‘Respect’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘I Wish’, covered all bases. A young lad, handing GH a note for an extra special request, to honour his hero Kurt Cobain who’s birthday it would have been, after a band consultation, resulted in an impromptu rendition of ‘Breed’, the boys arms flaying to and fro on stage as he swayed centre stage. It was endearing!

Many tender and genuinely ‘in the moment’ instances as actors say, when nothing else matters but the here and now; Glen and the talented Lisa Hannigan singing the Oscar winning song ‘Falling Slowly’, a blistering band groove on ‘When your mind’s made up’, ‘Santa Maria’. Gorgeous renditions of ‘Come away to the Water’ and ‘Say it to me now’. To surmise, a pulsating emotional journey as joyous as a night out with your mates, a night in with your partner, a slow walk in the park on a summer’s day with I pod on full blast.

Fittingly they ended the set with a meander ‘sans amplification’ on the notes of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Passing Through’, literally passing through the crowd which parted like the red sea, as all the band joined in, playing New Orleans jazz style with the sweet voices of Glen and Lisa leading the whole crowd. Making there way slowly though the auditorium, they hit the stairs and still playing, ascended to the upper balcony, the crowd mesmerized.

Back on the streets, it was colder and snow would soon fall, but I suspect I was not alone in having a warm glow inside.

Cheers Glen


You Will Become
Maybe Not Tonight
Talking with the Wolves
Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting / Respect
When Your Mind’s Made Up (swell season)
Low Rising (swell season)
Bird of Sorrow
Leave (swell season)
Maybe I Was Born To Hold You In These Arms (swell season)
Come Away to the Water
Wishlist (Pearl Jam)
High Hope
Fitzcarraldo (The Frames)
Santa Maria (The Frames)
Song of Good Hope

Say It to Me Now
O Sleep (with Lisa Hannigan)
Falling Slowly (with Lisa Hannigan)

Breed (Nirvana)
This Gift
Passing Through (Leonard Cohen)