Second-row seats for The Swell Season, aka Hansard, Irglova & The Frames, aka a concert by the people who made the movie Once.

First opening act walks out. One guy I’ve never heard of, with a guitar, and a drummer. They start playing – it’s a stripped-down sound, ponderous tempo, simple repetition – then he opens his mouth to sing and drops an incredible baritone hammer.

What a voice. Powerful in a live setting.

Okay, but next couple of numbers seem quite similar. Singer says almost nothing between numbers (except a baritone “Thanks.”). Audience gets politely restless. Wife is bored.

Then abruptly he pops out with this:

Melodic, crystalline, simply gorgeous.

His name is Bill Callahan and he used to record and perform under the name “Smog”, which you can understand if you listen to that first video.

Fun to encounter something completely new and different in this fashion, with no expectations at all. Reminds me of my first encounter with Adrian Belew’s music – not immediately gripping, but I kept thinking about it and the next day there I was, listening to these Youtube clips over and over.


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