Maybe it was Sunday night, or because it was late September, though it was likely because Missoula didn’t know Glen Hansard’s talent as a songwriter and performer. Those who did, however, knew exactly what a special night it would be.
Hansard, being Irish, brings a deep sense of the struggles and mysticism of the land embedded in his songs. A slow rise of emotion, building to a frantic feeling of helplessness based in fate, can be heard and felt.
It’s the Irish experience.
One song was particularly poignant, “Way Back in the Way Back When.” This song about the Irish migrating to this country in the 1800’s has deep meaning with the current migration on our southern boarder, but for me in particular.
My mother’s grandparents migrated to Detroit during the famine and my father came to this country from Guatemala when he was 17. At the midway point in the concert, Hansard switched from the accoustic guitar to an electric. Then in the middle of the song, he passed the guitar to his 62 year old Spanish guitar player who went into an amazing solo.
Javier Mas, a member of Leonard Cohen’s band, was as important to the night as Hansard. A special moment came as Hansard stepped to the edge of the stage, away from the microphone, and sang “Grace Beneath the Pines.”
It’s another of the Irish singer’s famously aching ballads, one that takes the listener to the bottom of the ocean before throwing out an emotional life preserver. This song is serious — and seriously good. Hansard’s protagonist hopes he’ll find the “grace beneath the judge’s gavel and among my brothers on the firing line” before wailing in the postscript, “I’ll get through this!”
In the last few bars of “Grace,” he convinces himself (and us) that a New Orleans-style brass march and a swell of strings will make everything alright. The only thing missing at the end is an “Amen.”