Friday, October 21, 2005

When Irish eyes are playing guitar

A mind-boggling question for your Friday morning: why in the name of whatever god you prefer (I'm partial to Apollo) are The Frames not more popular here? The Irish five-piece played at the Phoenix last night and it was quite simply one of the most enjoyable concert experiences I've ever had. The show was their third stop in Toronto since opening for Damien Rice back in the spring of 2003 (and achieving the difficult feat of blowing him completely out of the water). The band has been around since the mid-nineties and their (more than) two hour was like a greatest hits package spread over their five album. In a live setting, their arsenal consists of shimmering ballads, slow-burning torch songs and anthems that give U2 a run for their money, and all are played with great intensity and no small amount of technical chops.

But what really sets the band apart (and is a confounding element in my introductory question) is the sheer greatness of lead singer Glen Hansard, whose pipes are as strong and expressive as Van Morrison or Bono on their best days. And in true Irish spirit (or stereotype?), he is also one of the most affable performers one will ever have the pleasure to come across. Throughout the night he readily and easily engaged the large (but not packed) audience with stories and self-effacing humour, all told with a mesmerizing lilt. There was a sincerity to his performance that was just so refreshing. It's a shame more people haven't yet been charmed by Hansard and the rest of The Frames. They're certainly a band to root for. And keep your ears open for the alt. country singer/songwriter stylings of Josh Ritter, who combines the storytelling chops of Leonard Cohen with the fashion sense of Wayne Coyne.

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