BONO - SURRENDER; 40 Songs, One Story


Glen 2

photo: Janice Gordon-Stockman


Glen Hansard is a Psalmist.

I began to realise this just a few songs into this Mandela Hall gig. 

The sound was perfect. The band was tight and no one felt themselves a Ronaldo who it needed all to be about. The fiddle was back in a more central place in Hansard music. It was the whir of the fiddle in early Frames gigs that drew me to this songwriter 32 years ago.

The Mandela is doing its legend proud. The sound is perfect tonight, not a word lost even when Glen deep dives into his trademark cruscendos. Perhaps a higher stage is needed as not too far back and a seated band were not easily seen. I found the crack in everything and focused on Hansard.

Psalmist? Yes. I suddenly appreciated the resilience set at the heart of Glen Hansard songs. These songs are all hope filled. There’s a sometimes subtle and sometimes less so spirituality at the core. Where I as a pastor will use Psalms as strength and consolation so Hansard ministers to an audience. 

We should not be surprised as Sisters of Mercy, crosses, mercy, grace and prayers sneak into the lines. It’s as if Glen has added Gospel music to the influences of the songwriting and Irish folk of Paul Brady, Dylan and Cohen and the Pixies! He half jokes himself that the next three songs all have mercy in the title! 

Glen Hansard is our Brandi Carlile. I began to realise this near the end of Hansard's set.

I think I admire Carlile just as much for her humanity as her songwriting. Her friendship with Joni Mitchell and it seems everybody else. That care she took with Kris Kristofferson at Joni’s 75th Birthday concert which of course Glen played at too.. She seems the authentic girl next door type human.

As I have said before Glen Hansard never stopped being the busker on the street. He’s the boy next door for sure. I walked past him at two recent gigs in Dublin, as much a fan as me. Indeed his neighbours, two young teenage boys sing Rocky Road to Dublin sean-nós style. 

That wasn’t the end of the guests. A male voice in the crowd took Glen’s attention and having got him up Peter went on to sing Her Mercy on his own. He had the pipes this fella and the delivery too. It was like an audition for X Factor with the crowd going daft. Simon Cowell would have signed him up immediately.

Then another voice in the crowd. Female this time. Sylvie gets up and never really leaves for the last three songs. She’s as good as yer man but maybe hasn’t quite the confidence. It was still incredible. Hansard reminds us how much such things can go wrong but we are in Belfast. He seems to genuinely respect the city’s music, near intimated by Van. “Not the place to bring up your half arsed show on a Tuesday night”.

Of course it wasn’t that. There were about six new songs that he about to go in and record, giving them a listen on tour first. All were of the usual quality. I was particularly drawn to All Down On Our Knees, No Mountain and St. John. I now cannot wait of that record.

 He then adds those “hits” where the crowd sing every word - Lay Me Down, When Your Mind’s Made Up, Falling Slowly.… It is riveting. It is uplifting. His Psalms do their work. I go home buzzing, heart encouraged, head inspired, soul soothed for another day.


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