Friday night was the concert I’d been waiting more than two years to see. The thought of the concert got me through two miserable weeks worth of midterms that were by far the worst of my life, and even the chilly, rain-spitting, gray skies Cleveland wore that night couldn’t damp my spirits. Tim, Megan, Lisa, and I piled into his car, and one questionable after-dark trip through the ghetto later, we arrived at the Beachland Ballroom. The tour bus in the parking lot–complete with Joe and Rob smoking outside with the sound crew–told us we’d found the right place.
The weather was poor enough that they opened the doors to the venue early, and, at Megan’s urging, I took up a post just left of center stage in the front row around 8 o’clock. The spot provided the sort of perspective on the stage that one usually only gets from professionally recorded videos.
Rather unsurprisingly, the crowd was full of Oberlin students. The opening act, Josh Ritter, is originally from Idaho, but he attended Oberlin College for four years, so there were plenty from there who turned out to support him. In fact, we spent the whole concert next to a couple who were there to review the concert for Oberlin’s student newspaper. Pity that The Observer didn’t get in on the fun, I say.
With so much “hometown” support, Ritter had no trouble getting the crowd going and played a set of eleven songs, including “Harrisburg,” “Me and Jiggs,” and the Ohio-appropriate “Snow is Gone,” all of which I’d hoped to hear. He paused a few times to tell stories, including one about his jacket, a rental no one ever rented. “I can feel for that,” he said. The most poignant moment, for me, came when he introduced a new song, “Thin Blue Flame,” and dedicated it to the people of Pakistan. Rambling and politically critical, the song was a commentary on what Ritter called “our confusing times,” something of a combination of Don McLean and John Lennon, I guess. It was a moment of real connection; no one knew the song, but it met with resounding success. Megan picked up a single version of it for me from the merch desk; they gave it out in return for a donation for Hurricane Katrina victims. Sadly, the recorded version lacks some of the raw emotion of Friday’s performance, but, all the same, I recommend downloading the version featured on his site and keeping an ear out for the album next April.
A half hour or so after Ritter left the stage, the Frames came in and the real party started. My spot in the crowd was perfect. I was directly in front of Colm and perhaps four feet from where Glen stood (when he wasn’t bouncing around the stage, that is), and I had a good clear view of Joe’s face for all of his Glen-you’re-an-arsehole looks. They launched into “Keepsake,” which I have always thought made for a brilliant live song. I have to say, though, that nothing prepared me for the experience. Glen, in particular, gets so into the songs that during parts of them–namely, those parts during which he’s not singing–his entire body practically convulses to the music, a sight that would be comical if everyone else weren’t equally caught up in the moment. Instead, the audience either sings the lyrics back or stands in awe because no one can tell the difference between the bass beat and our own heartbeats. In short, the experience was spectacular.
Here’s the set list. New songs are in italics. Cover songs are in bold.
- Dream Awake
- Lay Me Down
- What Happens When the Heart Just Stops
- God Bless Mom
- People All Get Ready
- Too Many Sad Words Make a Sad, Sad Song
- Pavement Tune / Wake Up (The Arcade Fire)
- Friends and Foe
- Encore: Leave (Glen acoustic solo)
- Encore: Come and Find Me (Josh Ritter cover, performed with him)
- Encore: Star Star** / Hotel Lounge / Beautiful Widow
In true and full Glen style, there were lengthy, rambling (and utterly entrancing and humorous) tales preceding several songs, namely “What Happens When the Heart Just Stops” and “People All Get Ready.” Poor Deefer seems utterly forgotten–“What Happens…” is now all about “knowing you have only about a week before your best friend in the world tells you you’re a psycho.” The first new song they played, “People All Get Ready,” was supposedly inspired by the Gospel of Luke, but, given Glen’s tendency toward embellishment of stories, I think we should take that with a grain of salt. Whatever the inspiration, the new songs are excellent. As Glen hinted in interviews, they tend toward the quiet more than many of the anthemic tracks on Burn the Maps, but then, I always liked the balance struck between songs like “Disappointed” and “Revelate”.
Aside from the stories, there were several other price Glen moments. During “God Bless Mom” Glen declared that Joe was sexy when he did his bass solo, at which point Joe gave Glen quite the dirty look. I didn’t put much stock in it way back when B told me that Joe was the sexy one, but, at that moment, I could believe her. Watching his expressions throughout the night was hysterical. Of course, not everyone focuses on Joe. At one point, some guy in the audience yelled, “Glen, stop seducing my girlfriend!” to which Glen replied, “Which one is she?”
Between Glen’s storytelling and antics and the edge-of-the-abyss moment in “Pavement Tune” before Glen got the entire audience singing, I felt like a got a proper Frames experience, but when they launched into “Friends and Foe,” which I suspected would be the last tune of the show proper since I’d looked at some other set lists, I was nowhere near ready for them to be done. Thankfully, the end was delayed by three encores, the first of which was Glen alone on acoustic guitar with a song that he’d written with Damien Rice. “Leave” was an interesting combination of Damien and Glen, but it definitely works better than it seems like it would. Josh and company came back for “Come and Find Me,” followed by what I think was a Bob Dylan cover, but I won’t swear to it as it wasn’t a song I know. The whole band returned for Star Star** (how could they possibly do a gig without that song?!), and, when the audience sang the chorus back to the stage, Glen declared, “Dear Mum, we’ve made it in Cleveland.” That you have, lads.
I hit the merch desk for a tour t-shirt and to pick up a copy of Roads Outgrown, the only Frames album I didn’t already own. While I was up there, several people asked me which CD I recommended they buy. “They’re all fantastic,” I replied, “but Burn the Maps is my favorite CD in all the world.”
To what I’m sure was the chagrin of those with me, I insisted that we stand in the cold rain outside the tour bus so that I could meet the band. Glen came out after a bit, and, since hardly anyone was crazy enough to stand out there, I was able to chat with him for a couple minutes. He commented on my Wagamama t-shirt, asking if I’d been there. I explained that I’d been to the London one and that some friends sent it to me from Dublin as an apology for going there without me. Glen laughed and said that he spends way too much time at Wagamama. (There you go, Lindsey and B. You now know where to stalk Glen Hansard.) In addition to getting a picture with him, Glen signed the liner for my copy of Burn the Maps, including a little doodle that looks like him.
At that point, it was close to 1 a.m. and still freezing and rainy, so I conceded to the others and we left before I met the rest of the group. Another time, I suppose. Because there will be other times. In the meantime, I have a few keepsakes.