Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Swell Season At Prague's Lucerna Great Hall

Market and Glen performed by themselves, and were later joined by members of Glen's band, The Frames.

You know their music from the film "Once." One of the songs from that movie, "Falling Slowly," won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2007 Academy Awards.

They are Markéta Irglová of the Czech Republic and Glen Hansard of Ireland, and they call themselves The Swell Season (named after a novel by the Czech author Josef Škvorecký). Both of them also starred in "Once." (If you haven't yet seen the film, you must. It's fantastic.)

The Swell Season have a wonderful new album out called "Strict Joy," and they played the first concert of their European tour at Prague's sumptuous Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Great Hall at Lucerna, on February 1. Daisy and I went to see them.

It ranks, at least for me, as one of the best concerts I've ever seen.

We had seats on an ornate balcony right above the stage. The sound was a little muted, but we were so close to the performers that that was a small price to pay.

Marketa was facing us as she was singing and playing the piano, so we got to observe some of the subtle facial expressions she traded with Glen during some of the songs, especially during what I believe was Glen's unexpected (at least to Marketa) segue from "Falling Slowly" to "With or Without You" by U2. (See a video of that moment from the show below.)

As everyone in the audience knew, the two broke up last year after an extended love affair, so it was quite charming to hear Glen singing, "I can't live, with or without you," and looking right at Marketa. One of those little concert moments that I'll probably remember for quite some time.

It was a Springsteen-length affair -- more than two and a half hours. I thought it went on a little long, to be honest, but Glen is such a charismatic performer (a "force of nature," one of my colleagues called him), and it was the first date of their tour, and the crowd was so worshipful, that you could forgive Glen and Marketa for their enthusiasm.

The Great Hall at Lucerna was packed to the rafters.

I love this video for the first single of their new album.

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