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Big music weekend

November 19, 2007

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Originally uploaded by esKIM0

This weekend I got to see two awesome shows, The Swell Season on Saturday and then The Police last night. Very different shows, but both truly wonderful. So a quick recap:

Put simply, The Swell Season show will go down in my memory as one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. And I’m talking up there with the big ones like Pixies, Beck and Flaming Lips.

Glen Hansard was very funny, and talked a lot more between songs than I expected him too. I guess with such somber songs I was expecting the focus to be on the music (which it was) but with very little rapport with the audience. I was completely wrong on that; he told lots of great stories like how he played in Atlanta years ago at the Echo, gashed his head on a nail sticking out from the ceiling (nice), and when he came to Chris Martin was taking care of his wound.

Glen and Marketa’s voices sounded amazing, just as good if not better than in the recordings. But this show was hardly just about them; their backing band was truly amazing… the musicianship really blew me away, particularly of the violin player who Glen prompted to play a song he had written towards the end of the show. Utilizing a loop pedal, he was able to sound like three or four violinists instead of one… while I typically wouldn’t find a violin solo that exciting, this guy completely nailed it.

They must have played for nearly two hours, covering most everything off the Once soundtrack (even “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”), some Frames tunes, plus a really cool cover of Pixies’ “Cactus” (with hints of Pixies the song before also, when Glen delivered the “I got a broken face, uh huh” line… he’s obviously a big fan). From start to finish this was a ridiculously good show. If you get a chance to see them (and also if you haven’t seen the movie yet), GO — they are mind-blowingly good and are bound to touch even the coldest of hearts with their sincere, passionate songs.

The Police was equally mind-blowing, again largely because of the musicianship. During the first half of their show I often found myself getting distracted when they’d show close-ups on the big screens, be it of Stewart, Andy or Sting, simply because they are such amazing players. I’d start tying to follow what they were doing and just sort of loose myself in it, but not in the song so much as just the actual notes and thinking “how the hell does he do that?”. Some people might criticize the jazz-jammy treatment they are giving their songs during this tour, but the way I see it, if you’re playing a song you have written 25 years ago, I would hope that you could bring something different to it now than you did on the original. I think I would have been a little bored had they stuck to the original. Although I will admit to missing some of Stewart’s signature fills. All-in all though, I was truly amazed at what I saw last night. Honestly, as I was watching them I kept thinking that their skills really do transcend human ability. I mean it was like watching machines up there; it was unreal.

They played most of the “hits” and for the most part they did venture away from the original structure, sometimes more than others (I think they only song in which they stayed true to the original was “Every Breath You Take”)… it was fun to watch Stewart jump back and forth from auxiliary percussion (timpani, bells) to his set, and Andy definitely did not shy away from the guitar solo. I would have liked to have heard “Tea in the Sahara” but was thrilled that they played Synchronicity II which is my favorite Police song and in my opinion was the strongest song of the night.

Aside from the music, I must add that Sting’s upper body is a testament to why one should do yoga. Damn.

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