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Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard at the Town Hall in Auckland | FESTIVALPHOTO

Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard at the Town Hall in Auckland

Lisa Hannigan has the amount of shyness and feminine charm one would expect from a rising star who is relatively inexperienced on the stage. But in truth, she is not a ‘rising star’. She already rose to fame with the Damian Rice band in Ireland then began her solo career in 2008. However, she has a new face when in New Zealand and most people in the audience had probably never seen or heard of her until this evening, myself included. We were in for a treat. Dressed in a peach dress and high heels, she was very formal in thanking everyone and dedicating each song to someone or group in particular in her soft and distinctively husky, young, Irish voice. Singing one romantic song (‘Little Bird’) after another on the banjo which had a hint of American-style folk in it, one might even day Lisa had type-cast herself as just another girl-with-guitar figure.
But it would be wrong to judge so soon. Three songs in and her confidence appeared to step up a notch. She gave us an insight into her sense of humour, as well as her view of our country, with the tongue and cheek song ‘Safe Travels (Don’t Die)’. She insinuated that this song, which she dedicated to herself, was a commentary on how frightening New Zealand is compared with Ireland where nothing ever happens. And yet she was acknowledging of our country; talking about her recent trip to Waiheke Island and dedicating her most well-known ukulele song, ‘Knots, to “Inga the Winger” from the Good Morning show.
Lastly, Lisa blew everyone in the hall away with her talent, especially when singing her more serious songs. The spine-tingling song ‘We the drowned’, complete with piano accompaniment was met with plentiful applause. The mood of the evening took on a jazzier note when she was backed by members of the Frames, complete with violinist. Songs like ‘A Sail’ show she is accustomed to singing about personal matters but with the retrospective voice of wisdom, and she is not afraid to beat out the rhythm by kicking the floor in her heels!
After Lisa came Glen and the Frames. I could go on about the sound that erupted from the crowd when they saw Glen, suffice to say that the crowd knew the Frames and loved them well, not just because of the 2006 film ‘Once’ with Marketa Irglova. Glen received quite a few “I love you!”s from the audience, and he made sure the feeling was returned by giving us the most symphonic and energetic performance we have ever seen this reputedly soft-spoken man give. At times a groove session, and at times an intimate conversation about what each song means (including a hilarious story of the time he and a mate had an unfortunate experience involving a boat and a lighthouse whilst drunk back in Dublin), Glen and the Frames gave us their ALL this Wednesday night. And this is despite a confession that they were severely jet-lagged.
Glen showed a great appreciation for New Zealanders and indeed the New Zealand culture; he opened the night with “Kia ora” and continued to use kiwi slang here and there. I have to say that his imitation of the New Zealand accent is spot on when saying “Sweet as.” He, too, mentioned going to Waiheke Island and expressed his reluctance to leave there earlier that day.
Glen and the Frames had backing them a pianist, a local string trio and a brass trio; hence the ‘symphonic’ element to this night. Whilst this was amazing, some of the more dedicated fans might think that it was too much to add on to the songs of an otherwise delightfully quiet acoustic band (i.e.: the strings didn’t add much to rock n’ roll), but this is a small criticism in a sea of awe; you can’t deny being blown away by a man who can yell instead of sing and still sound melodic, or a man who can dance in circles with his guitar. His emotional performance of Once song ‘Leave’ was chillingly good leading to roars of appreciation, and whole hall joined in for ‘When your mind’s made up’. My personal favourite, ‘Say to it me now’, was equally brilliant.
Glen also made way for improvisation and covers: Aretha Franklin and The Who were amongst the artists he indirectly paid his Respects (no pun intended) to showing he is indeed a man of wide-ranging tastes and able to break the boundaries of musical genre. He also mentioned his tastes in literature by mentioning one song ‘Come away to the water’ was influenced by Suzanne Collins’ ‘The Hunger Games’ and subsequently used in the movie.
Glen left us hanging on till the very end for the most popular song, even making a false exit beforehand and coming back after a thundering encore. ‘Falling Slowly’ was performed with Lisa who stayed for the rest of the evening but that wasn’t the final song. Glen ensured we were given our money’s worth and then some for this concert. Right up until midnight, the Frames played as many songs as they could fit into a set. This included O’Farell’s ‘Gold’ song which, Glen informed us, was actually a modest protest song in favour of environmentalism. As much as the evening started with a bang, it ended with one: Glen, Lisa, the Frames and the symphonic backing members of their party came together to sing us a calming hymn of ‘Passing through’. They actually walked off stage still singing and playing their instruments. It was as if they loved what they did so much they could keep going to their grave, which they probably will!
In general, this was an unforgettable night coloured by two beautiful personalities. It will stay with every member of the audience for years.

Writer: Imogen Reid
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