Sofia and I were fortunate enough to see The Swell Season perform in Bratislava this Friday. I am a huge fan (in fact Glen Hansard is one of my favorite musicians and is a huge influence on my music). So I wanted to write up a quick review of the show.
When Glen, Marketa and band took stage and pasionately banged out "Feeling the Pull", I was so overwhelmed with beauty and emotion that I could feel a few tears running down my cheeks. For the first 3 songs, I stood frozen.
Their faster songs worked perfectly in this setting and Marketa's 2-3 soft songs (I mean the songs she sings lead) also were filled with many moments of perfect beauty (especially Fantasy Man). Glen's slower songs like Paper Cup didn't work quite as well live as I had expected, though these are my favorites on the latest album. At any rate, The Swell Season performed for over 2 hours and, from my standing position on the theater floor, it seemed to fly by much faster than that. It was a wonderful evening in a theater full of sensitive souls admiring the passionate performance of a few very good friends.
There were also parts of the concert that could have been improved. The opening band, Longital, was from Slovakia. They are a folksy-sounding duo who incorporate a great deal of non-folk sounding instruments on playback into their show (it wasn't clear whether they were even playing electric guitar or only faking it to the playback). While I am a huge fan of this genre, I have to say that Longitel was a big miss. Each of their songs fail both at an emotional level and a sonic level, so the result was almost a humorously pretentious (especially the panting parts).
I know that sometimes bands choose a week opening act just to make themselves sound better in contrast. But surprisingly, The Swell Season also made a very questionable decision to bring Longital back out for an encore toward the end of the Swell Season concert. When Glen weakly attempted to sing backup on the truly horrific song "To je Vsetsko", it only worked to remind me that the Swell Season did do a fair share of obvious pandering to the Slovak audience (Marketa being Czech and Glen having spent a good deal of time in the region). The show was interrupted on many occasions by long speaches, by making a big production of drinking a local alcohol on-stage, etc. I felt that these moments probably weren't necessary and that the band were at their best when banging out one perfect, georgous song after another.