Me and my husband went over to Auckland on the ferry from Waiheke Island last night (where we are currently living – I will post separately about our Waiheke experiences!) to see Glen Hansard and Lisa Hannigan play at Auckland Town Hall as part of the Auckland Arts Festival – and we had an amazing time!
It was really nice to see Auckland again after almost 2 weeks of being over here on the island. We had a lovely pre-concert meal at Jack Tar – one of our favourite places to eat. We then had a nice wander round the Festival gardens outside the town hall and sat on the steps in Aotea Square. Soon the time had come for the concert to start and we headed in to find out seats. We had chosen seats in the circle area, so were in the front row of overlooking the stage – and had a good view. Just after 8pm the lights went down and the small figure of Lisa Hannigan wearing a pretty pinky/orage dress stepped onto the stage. With her quiet Irish voice she said hello and thanked everyone for the warm welcome.
I was utterly captivated from the first note she sang on the opening song – the amazing ‘Little Bird’. Singing most of the songs acoustic on her guitar and ukulele her voice was just so raw, haunting and absolutely note perfect. After listening to both her albums intensively over the last few days she really did bring every single song to life – and add many new dimensions to the studio recordings. The crowd were really behind her and seemed to be there as much to see her as Glen. She didn’t speak as much as Glen did (more about that later) but when she did her stories were interesting and funny – she told about how she had visited Waiheke island yesterday (as Glen had) and how she was enjoying her time here in NZ. She also made a brilliantly funny link between her song ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’ and her touring and travelling in this part of the world. Her 40 minute set flew by all too quickly, but her voice was incredible and its amazing quality of tone and her heartfelt passion for her music really left a lasting impression and one we will always remember.
Following a short break Glen and his band ‘The Frames’ also supported by 3 local string instrumentalists appeared and took their places on the stage. What followed was an amazing couple of hours of music. Glen has been busking and touring since he was a lot younger and has been with The Frames for over 22 years. He was also part of the very successful ‘The Swell Season’ with Margeta Irglova who made a film together called ‘Once’ for which they won an Oscar for the song ‘Falling Slowly’. Glen was also asked to write some music inspired by the book ‘The Hunger Games’ which was later included in the film, and one of which we were lucky to hear last night. The set covered songs spanning his long and varied career – enough to keep everyone in the crowd happy for whatever reason they were there. There were certainly more cheers for his Swell Season material as this was more well-known. Many of his songs made use of his band, building to a full and rich sound. In many actually Glen bordered on playing his guitar manically as his passion was clear to see! He himself admitted though that the acoustics of the hall meant the quieter songs sounded better – and I would have to agree. The songs where it was just him and his guitar or ukelele (for which he thanked Eddie Vedder) were probably the best. He also encouraged a sing-along in which the audience participated beautifully. Glen was very engaged with the full and enthusiastic audience (it was virtually a sell-out) and told many stories during his set, including one rather entertaining tale of a boat trip out into Dublin harbour last year which involved crashing onto some rocks near a lighthouse! He introduced many songs explaining the inspiration behind them, and this really added to the already pure and heartfelt music.
To the only slight complaint I can have is that the last ferry back to Waiheke wasn’t late enough!! The reason? We had to leave before the concert was over and as such since reading reviews apparently Glen and Lisa duetted on Glen’s most famous song ‘Falling Slowly’. It was a shame to have missed this but we had to get back to the island and also read that he played for over 3 hours (his set was due to be 1 hour 30!) so we simply couldn’t have stayed until the end. All that we heard was memorable though and we are so glad we went.
Both Glen and Lisa were simply incredible. Being a fan of The Swell Season and Glen for so long, surprisingly I think I enjoyed seeing Lisa a little more and have definitely discovered one of my new favourite artists.
Another New Zealand night never to forget and one which will remain long in the memory.