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Royal Festival Hall, London
Hansard’s Southbank debut showed an artist relishing the freedom of switching genres – from Stax-y bluster to Woody Guthrie protest
Making his Royal Festival Hall debut, the Oscar and Grammy-award winner Glen Hansard is strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a cod-reggae ditty about bananas. It’s a surreal highlight of a two-hour show that’s a snapshot of an artist in flux, caught between picking at his wounded heart and throwing slinky dance moves to his blossoming southern soul.
Backed by a 12-piece band including brass and strings, Hansard’s powerful voice, whether raw with passion or tender with regret, shines above arrangements both chillingly sparse and bursting with horn stamps and swagger. Often singing a capella, Hansard forgoes the mic for a startling rendition of Grace Beneath the Pines that’s as much sermon as song, but throws himself into the Stax-y bluster of Roll on Slow, from his latest album, Between Two Shores, with equal abandon.