The Swell Season: Live last night

swell season

Live Last Night

By Chris Klimek

They broke up.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, for whom life imitated art imitating life when they fell in love playing lovers in the kinda-sorta-semi-autobiographical sleeper romance "Once" a few years back, are no longer an item. But on the evidence of "Strict Joy," their first album together since they picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song last year, they remain creatively simpatico.

(The Frames provide support, after the jump.)

At a sold-out 9:30 club Monday night, they proved the point while promoting a new frame through which to perceive their ongoing partnership: Specifically, The Frames, the Dublin rock band Hansard has fronted since 1990. The group accompanied Hansard and Irglova for the bulk of an 135-minute tour de force that covered Swell Season songs new and old, Frames numbers, and a few knockout covers.

Hansard and Irglova's voices pair beautifully, but they performed alone together on only a handful of songs, mostly the "Once" ones. New material like the ecstatic "Feeling the Pull" and "High Horses" sounded forceful but slightly more anonymous in their burnished full-band arrangements. For much of the evening, you'd have thought Irglova was the pianist and backing vocalist in The Frames, rather than one-half of The Swell Season. (Most of the "Once" tunes were credited to Hansard alone anyway, and some had previously appeared on Frames albums.) The three songs on which the 21-year-old Czech sang lead, including the new "Fantasy Man," were lovely enough to make you crave more.

After "Falling Slowly," their Oscar-winner, Hansard and Irglova could have sent everyone home happy. But Hansard called the Frames back for a jaw-dropping climactic sequence of an unnamed new song, the Frames deep cut "Red Chord," and the Irish traditional, "The Parting Glass." If this is their future, it's clear they're still in love with music.

By David Malitz |  November 10, 2009; 1:59 PM ET Live Last Night
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