The Purple Rose of Dublin

The Swell Season

El Rey, August 1

by Ryan Ward, Photos by Bryce Wilson

Everyday there are songs and musicians that attempt to do what they believe is meaningful. Pseudo-laureates and full-on liars buzz around our heads on a daily basis, but The Swell Season, the concert-ready manifestation of the heart-string-tugging duo of the film 'Once' knocked me back into reality like a Brinks' truck. Yes they wrote those songs that left many-a-couple swooning over each other after they left the theater, and yes, they are TOURING! In the flesh, stepping off the screen from their romantic masterpiece of a film, more gracefully than Woody Allen could have imagined a pair.

They were seated, comfortable and imperfectly prepared for a sold-out crowd, while the audience at the El Rey stood a-gasp for Glen Hansard's dynamic swoon bedded down with the angelic nuances of Marketa Irglova. His worn-out guitar and love-addled prose alongside her sparkling piano grandiose and ghostly vocal echoes held all eyes wide for nearly two hours. Between a few songs, howls of 'Oscar! You deserve an Oscar' rang out behind me, while the peek-ish Hollywood cheeks of Claire Daines, Matthew Perry and James Spader behind them, smattered alike. I struggled not to engage my fiancée in front of me for fear we would both break down in tears of promise and regret. I shit-you-not – I couldn't even put my hand on her shoulder.

But no matter how the words hypnotize you, The Swell Season give good song. Dynamic and refreshing. Glorious crescendos and classic melodies. And just think, we almost all gave up on the notion. Neither of the two realize how powerful they are, and thankfully so. It is apparent however, that they love their music and they love performing it, and it's genuine. Can you believe it? Humble, gracious and talented! Not inside the county line, please. No note was missed and no nuance of love went unrequited – subtle on-stage glances were traded between the two insinuating maybe more than just songs followed them off the movie set. While it's quite clear that Glen and Mar's pairing is phenomenal, no fairy tale can last forever, so listen to them, watch them, write your own song, and kiss who you kiss, and forgive me for even trying to describe this spectacle in words.

Oh, wait! I didn't tell you that Damien Rice played a song!

Yeah… I did that on purpose.

-Ryan Ward

Photos by Bryce Wilson

LA Weekly