The reason I moved to Berlin was to be a part of the incomparable busking scene. And the reason I started this whole busking thing was down to an Irishman – Glen Hansard. So when I heard he was to do a show here, I looked into getting tickets right away.
He landed the lead role (as a busker) in the Oscar winning film ‘Once’
Glen quit school when he was 13 to focus on his music and busking, to later be signed to Island records at 17. After lots and lots of stuff in between he landed the lead role (as a busker) in the Oscar winning film (and later full on musical) ‘Once’ as well as writing the entire soundtrack with co-star Marketa Irglova. Which led to me being made aware of him and, more importantly, to him filling 4000 capacity venues worldwide.
The lute player was Javier Mas, who had been touring and playing with Leonard Cohen for the last seven years
I managed to catch him back in 2013 at a semi-intimate college theatre in Manchester so I expected a show of similar size but as I secured my seat at Tempodrom I realised I’d been very wrong.
The 12 piece band opened with a lute-infused version of ’Bird on the Wire’ by the late Leonard Cohen. We later found out that the lute player was Javier Mas, who had been touring and playing with Cohen for the last seven years. He agreed to come and play these shows as a tribute to the genius on condition that they perform a few covers along the way. Glen’s restless guitar tech guy then brought out his signature well-worn guitar, which has somehow survived 25 years of busking, and he broke into his melancholic track ‘Just to be the One’ off his new album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’.
To accompany an Irishman’s songs it is inevitable that there will be many an anecdote
His set was a two and a half hour snippet of his 10 year career since his days with The Frames, as well as odd segments of Gene Wilder’s ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’ and an entertaining, rewritten version of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Vigilante Man’. To accompany an Irishman’s songs it is inevitable that there will be many an anecdote, which made me feel that the title of his latest album ‘Didn’t He Ramble’ was somewhat appropriate.
It was honestly one of the most passionate and dynamic gigs that I’ve been to in quite a while; from full, traditional-sounding ensembles to stripped-down, entirely acoustic performances on the ground level with the crowd. Glen is clearly a well seasoned performer with an undeniably down to earth charm.