Gig reviews

The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

May 14

Written by:
Wednesday, May 14, 2008  RssIcon

The Swell Season (live in the Uptown Theater, Kansas)

Review Snapshot: The music was great, the stories were not. Glen and The Frames were as remarkable as ever in their performance and still have what it takes to wow new audiences. Marketa added texture and a breath of fresh air to to the proceedings. Unfortunately Glen's involved stories and self indulgent ramblings detracted from what was otherwise a stellar Frames performance.

The Cluas Verdict? 7.5 out of 10

The Swell Season liveFull Review: I’m a long-time Frames fan, I admit it. I first saw them in Dolans in Limerick, circa 1995, during my halcyon college days. I’ve interviewed Glen and Colm and been to my fair share of Frames gigs in the intervening years. My slavish following has waned in recent times, so it was an unusual pleasure to find myself in Kansas City, Missouri on a Monday night with tickets to see Glen and Marketa, aka The Swell Season.

Upon walking into the Uptown Theater in Kansas the brawny voice of Damien Dempsey was echoing around the auditorium. I only caught his last two songs but he seemed to get a warm reception. The Uptown Theater is something like The Olympia after a colour explosion; embossed orange wallpaper, Grecian statues and urns and an almost Mexican feel to it. The crowd was diverse, plenty of soccer moms and dads, and every age from babes in arms to Grandma and Grandpa.

The show opened with ‘Say it to me now’ with Glen at his acoustic best, all alone on the edge of the stage, no need of a microphone. He went on to introduce Marketa and the two of them launched into, ‘All the Way down’. I have to admit I had goose bumps; their voices combined produce a hauntingly beautiful sound. Glen invited the guys from The Frames out on stage and then characteristically got a little carried away with a shout of “Yeah F*ck Yeah” which shocked  the politically correct American massive. But he recovered and explained the inspiration for their song ‘This Low’. It involved finding and reading a self-help book left behind after the breakup of a relationship. They seem to enjoy his talking here; maybe it’s the lilting Irish accent. It’s a stunning love song and built up to a crescendo of heartfelt emotion, with Marketa harmonising during the chorus.

Next up was ‘Drown Out', again preceded by a long and rambling introduction, far too long to go into here. Suffice to say it’s inspired by a story of religious persecution in the 1400s and a ghost speaking through the husband of a reiki healer that Glen knows. I’m not sure even the Americans were getting it. The song sounded good though, with Colm’s fiddle adding power as did the piano accompaniment.

Finally some beats and energy. The whole band got involved on ‘When Your Minds Made Up’and the place rocked to the strong drum beat. Colm was sterling as ever on the fiddle. This was much nearer to The Frames magic of old. Marketa adds sparkle and lightness to their overall sound and she sounds so charming with her Irish accent. For her next melodic offering, possibly entitled ‘Forgive me lover’, she introduced Graham Hopkins (Therapy? and Halite) as her accompaniment on drums.

‘Falling Slowly’, Glen and Marketa’s Oscar winning song got a great reception. Typically Glen expanded on his Oscar glory. He used a metaphor of kicking a ball which goes way beyond where you expected it to. “You just wanted it to go over the wall but it kept going and now you want your ball back”. He told how he was sad because of everything he’d been for 20 years (in The Frames) and now he’s singled out as the “successful guy”. His language throughout the evening was smattered with expletives and his excuse? He blamed the 800 years that the English had beaten our language out of us, so he believes it’s now our job to corrupt the English language. At this point I was almost ready to leave.

I didn't, and next up, appropriately enough, was ‘Leave’. It’s a heart wrenchingly, aching love song. Glen sang it alone and built it up until he was almost spitting out the words. You could feel the genuine heartache on it. This was followed by ‘What happens when the heart just stops’, another sad relationship song.

Marketa took to the stage again and they delivered one of their favourite busking songs ‘Just wishing that I had just something you were’ by the Pixies. The glorious ‘Your Face’ was all Glen with gentle backing music and harmonies; it brought me right back to all those nights in dark, packed venues around Ireland, mesmerised by the songs and overflowing emotions. To finish the show it was Marketa with ‘If you want me’. It’s almost a Lisa / Damien phenomenon. The rapt audience barely exhaled as Marketa’s poignant voice filled the theatre. She sounded so strong with Glen on backing duties.

The encore started with ‘The Blue Shoes’ Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s masterpiece on the fiddle. Some people started to leave but he entranced the remaining spectators. The whole band came back and Glen commented that it was his favourite night of the tour. Then into ‘Fitzcarraldo’, I couldn’t believe I knew all the words and even found myself singing along. It’s hard to beat the Frames fan out of me. Next up the strummed opening bars signalled the start of the tender ‘Star, star’ which, as always, moved into ‘Pure Imagination’. Glen gave Joe his time in the limelight.

If there’s one thing you can say about The Frames they never stop giving, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lacklustre performance from them. Next another ‘Frames’ classic and one of my favourites ‘Red Cord’. I’m lost to them again. All the talking and throwaway comments from Glen forgotten in the passion of their performance.

I ended the night with mixed emotions, varying from pride at the positive reaction they got from the crowd to embarrassment at some of the comments made during the evening. But I’m a lifelong fan so it’s hard to detach myself. This may be the time to really introduce the music of The Frames to the wider world, I just hope Glen manages to let the music speak for itself.

Celine O'Malley


8 comment(s) so far...

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

Get over yourself on the Glen bashing. It's an Irish begrudging the Irish thing. We were told we weren't allowed to talk up so long we started to believe it.
Leave your prejudices behind and enjoy the almost lost art of storytelling. By the way, you were at the Swell Season concert. Give credit where credit is due. Otherwise I'm glad you got to enjoy some part of the night that others found utterly magical,

By Gail O'Reilly on   Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

It may have just been a typo, but Marketa does not have an Irish accent, she is Czech.

Also, the best concerts I have been to is when the frontman also entertains us with stories (James Taylor, Dave Grohl). Very few can pull this off and Glen is one of the best.

By Tom on   Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

You give a gig 7.5 out of 10, call some parts of it magical and the ginger ones minions still aren't happy...I don't know, get over yourself lads. Going to gigs is about listening to music, head to the pub if you want to hear someone make up stories or better still, buy a book.

By Idiot Kid on   Thursday, May 15, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

I say well done to you celine, speak your mind. Any fool can see Glen oozes slimy arrogance.

By DaVe on   Thursday, May 15, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

Personally, I thought your review was terrific! Having attended The Frames concerts years ago, Glen was terrific, but with his new fame it's gone to his head and he's the one bashing the
Irish in interviews and on stage!

By JOM on   Friday, May 16, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

Thanks for all the comments, really appreciate them, means people have read the review anyway :-) Sorry if I seemed too negative, I have to tell you it was a struggle to balance how much I enjoyed the music with how little I enjoyed the long stories. While I definitely need some level of interaction from a performer, I just feel Glen takes it too far. It's not a personal attack on him or any begrudgery. I was absolutely thrilled when they won the Oscar and I think he's a really talented song-writer, which is why I still go to his concerts after 13 years. And absolutely Marketa is Czech but what I meant was you can hear more than a little Irish twang when she's speaking English!

By Celine on   Monday, May 19, 2008

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

Fair play to you Celine. Yep, it came off too negative considering the talent and what they have achieved and the Frames and the Swell Season are different. Thanks for the follow up though. If you didn't get to see the movie ONCE, I highly recommend you do so. I love The Frames too but The Swell Season is the magic that truly connects with people right now and Marketa is a huge part of The Swell Season's success. Perhaps the two bands will blend. There was an evolution in style with the album The Swell Season. Try The Moon from that album. You may become a convert to The Swell Season phenomenon. Check out the review of the Radio City Hall concert:
I hope you keep enjoying and writing about concerts.

By Caitriona on   Monday, December 21, 2009

Re: The Swell Season (live in Kansas)

Marketa does indeed have a Czech/Irish mixed accent. She's spent a lot of time in Ireland and around Irishmen whilst learning to speak English and her Czech accent is definitely tempered with an Irish accent.

By C. on   Monday, September 15, 2008

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