Swell Season swells pavilion crowd at Ravinia

Categories: Chicago Sun-Times

July 15, 2010

By MARK GUARINO | Chicago Sun-Times

Glen Hansard, one-half of the folk-rock duo The Swell Season, was admonished Wednesday night at Ravinia for inviting concertgoers to fill the aisles near the end of his show. Hundreds of fans from the lawn then entered the pavilion.

His gesture was to liven up proceedings in the spirit of the music, which celebrates a united front against despondency and loneliness. But no dice — rogue concertgoers were told the show would not go on until they went back from whence they came.

“Well it seems like we were having fun for a while,” Hansard said.

That was awkward but maybe not as much as at a Squeeze concert Ravinia hosted the previous Saturday where, in a policy maybe lifted from the movie “Footloose,” some concertgoers were told they were not allowed to dance — in their seats. One-by-one, pavilion ticketgoers were told to sit down when they danced until Squeeze singer Chris Difford interrupted and told security that yes, dancing was OK and in fact encouraged.

Nonetheless, Hansard and musical partner Markéta Irglová both complimented the natural beauty of the venue from the stage and, on a song like “Low Rising,” the army of buzzing cicadas tucked into the trees actually helped accompany the lilting sadness of their songs.

The duo was catapulted to fame after starring in and winning an Oscar for the 2007 film “Once.” Already a respected songwriter with the Frames, his Irish folk-rock band, Hansard stepped into a larger role for which he is obviously suited. His natural charm and good nature helped turn the park into a back patio session, or maybe the Hideout, the Chicago tavern where he first performed years ago.

The Frames joined the duo for almost two hours of shifting roles and dynamics. When either singer was at the piano to accompany the other, their back was turned, which gave the harmony vocals the sense of ghostly detachment.

That benefitted their songs that sought spiritual transcendence over earthly troubles. The band helped make a cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” blush with intensity while, as a duo, “Falling Slowly” indeed moved in slow motion.

Regret is the subject of many of their songs but on “I Have Loved You Wrong,” Irglová offered it up like a hymn.

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