The weeks of anticipation and waiting came to a head on Sunday night as Mom and I headed downtown. It surprised me when I realized I hadn't been downtown since seeing Superman Returns at the Omnimax back in September.
I wish I had the camera handy while we drove. The sun punched through the cloudy sky and created a perfect shimmering reflection on Lake Erie just before we got into the city.
We were sitting in traffic behind the Allen Theatre , waiting to pull into the parking garage, when my filmmaker-sense started to tingle. I caught sight of a boom mic in the distance, then I saw the camera, in front of the equipment were the stars of the night, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I still don't know what they were filming behind the theatre, but the little glimpse was cool.
Mom was nervous as we approached the 7-foot height limit sign at the entrance of the garage in our behemoth of a van. The woman in the booth assured us we'd be fine and told us to head up to the 5th floor. So we did. Noisily. The van was just low enough to clear the ceiling, but our non-retractable radio antenna wasn't. It scraped on almost every lowered area of the ceiling on our way up to the roof. It was a bit stressful, but the tension was cut when I caught Mom ducking to clear the ceiling. While in the van.
We found our way from the garage to the theatre and met up with Eric and Bridget in a stroke of perfect timing. The usher lady (Usheress?) led us on a twisted path toward our seats. Halfway there, I started having a bit of trouble driving my chair on the somewhat steep incline and actually got stuck against some chairs. Meanwhile, the usheress didn't notice and kept walking all the way down to our seats.
As I battled gravity, the slant, and the chairs, who bumps into us? Adrienne. I couldn't believe it, I haven't actually seen her in about three years. She chatted with Bridget and Eric as I tried to free myself, but once I finally succeeded, the usheress returned and we followed. I really wish I could've talked with her and caught up a little bit.
Now at our seats, we looked around at the impressive interior of the Allen Theatre for a few brief minutes before a burly Irishman walked onto the stage. It was the opening act, Damien Dempsey. I had heard his name before, but that was all I knew of him before Sunday night. Despite his suffering from hay fever, he really impressed me. He had a great sound that occasionally consisted of a unique blend of Irish music with a dash of Bob Marley. It was his last night accompanying Glen & Marketa on the tour, so the band snuck out and surprised him by joining him on his final song.
After a brief intermission, Glen Hansard took the stage by himself at 9:15. He stood at the very front of the stage with his eternal sidekick, the holey guitar. Minus microphone and guitar unplugged, he gestured for the audience to quiet down. Seconds later, the theatre was complete silence and Glen played Say It To Me Now. No matter how hard I try, it would be impossible to put that performance into words. The closest I could come up with, and I know it probably sounds a bit over-the-top, would be to say it was a transcendental experience, he removed us from our daily worlds and brought us into theirs with that song and would keep us there for the rest of the night. The song was met with an uproar of applause.
Marketa Irglova joined Glen and took center stage, singing All the Way Down and sounding amazing.
They were then joined by the rest of the band, who I realized were Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Rob Bochnik, and Joe Doyle of The Frames. This made what would have already been an incredible concert even better.
They went on to play a fantastic mix of songs from Once (Lies, Falling Slowly, If You Want Me), some Frames songs (True, What Happens When the Heart Just Stops), and even a handful of new songs. Marketa sang one I particularly liked, called I Have Loved You Wrong.
She blew me away when she sang Lullaby from The Wicker Man (the original of course, as she referred to the remake as "kind of shit").
Glen went crazy on guitar for his awesome rendition of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks.
Colm even got his moment in the spotlight, performing a beautiful solo piece on the violin.
As usual, a highlight of the night was Glen's talking between songs and introducing them. He's a hilarious storyteller, he even got so into it at one point that he reenacted the classic near/far bit from Sesame Street, repeatedly running from the front to the back of the stage.
He briefly reminisced about how crazy these last couple years have been with the huge success and Oscar win of Once. His thoughts reflected my own when he expressed amazement at how the venues they're playing have changed from the venues they played before the film, giving the example of going from the Beachland Ballroom last time they were in Cleveland to the Allen Theatre this time.
After more thunderous applause, they all returned for a nice long encore which included Star Star, Fitzcarraldo, and a traditional Irish song, The Auld Triangle, for which Damien Dempsey returned to the stage. That rounded out the night of great music. I can't speak for anyone else, but I was left in awe after the show and still feel it when I think about it.
Bridget and Eric made their way to us, battling against the current of audience members leaving the theatre. We all talked about how much we loved the show before heading out to the merch booth in the lobby, where I grabbed Damien Dempsey, Rob Bochnik, and Colm Mac Con Iomaire's CDs along with a Swell Season tee-shirt.
We said our goodnights and parted ways, making our way back to the van, then scraping and ducking all the way down to the street.
That was a night I'd love to revisit, and thanks to technology I'll be able to once PlayedLastNight.com puts the show up.