Review: Marketa Irglova & Glen Hansard of Swell Season w/ Lizzie Weber

The evening started like a scene from the Irish independent film Once, as me and my companion sat under gray skies and drizzling rain.  But we weren’t on a Dublin street corner; we were in line at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre waiting for the gates to open and the mad dash for prime real estate to commence. Glen Hansard, former frontman of the Irish rock band The Frames, and Czech pianist Marketa Irglova were in the garden on Monday, August 21, 2023 for a belated 15th anniversary celebration of the film Once and its award-winning soundtrack. They also starred in the film and earned an Oscar for Best Song with “Falling Slowly” in 2008. The film and its score were adapted for the stage and became a multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. 

Hansard and Irglova formed the indie-folk duo Swell Season after the launch of the film and charmed audiences on the road with their award-winning formula of heartfelt songs of struggle, love, and loss. Reunited, with a full band, they offered us a sampling of their musical chemistry.

Swell Season
Glen Hansard of Swell Season. Photo by John Nelson

The early drizzle ended before St. Louis singer-songwriter Lizzie Weber opened the show at the piano with “Falling Like Fools,” a thematically appropriate and impassioned song about two people falling in love and harboring uncertainty about the union. She grabbed her acoustic guitar for “The Big One,” an idiomatic tune about the fear of the unknown. She concluded her six-song set with “Space,” a song about missing her husband who deployed with the Navy.

Swell Season began their incredible 18-song set with “Lies” from the Once soundtrack and followed with a wonderful version of their new single “The Answer is Yes,” a song about their decision to reunite as a duo. They tackled “When Your Mind’s Made Up” with the same energetic passion depicted in the film. Irglova played a new song, “Everything I Leave to You,” and a dead silence fell upon the garden. No picnic chatter, just rapt attention as Irglova delivered a beautifully sculpted song.  

A stellar band, which included a cello, bass, violin, and drum, brought the indie-folk songs to life. They did a majestic version of “The Moon,” an electric folk-rock Irish ballad from their 2006 self-titled debut album. Hansard and Irglova’s voices seem to meld in sync with the violin and cello. Also from The Swell Season album they did “Leave,” but this version included an interpolation with the Who’s “Love, Reign o’er Me.” They also surprised us with a spirited rendition of Van Morrison’s  “Into The Mystic.” What a bonus! 

Swell Season
Lizzie Weber. Photo by John Nelson

As we rolled into the homestretch the duo played a few new songs. They told the audience they’ve recently spent time together in Irglova’s Iceland home/studio where they wrote a significant amount of new material. They played “Factory Street Bells” and two others. I’m eagerly awaiting a new album. They invited Lizzie Weber back to the stage to play “River,” a pre-pandemic song she recorded with Irglova. The two voices harmonized beautifully. Irglova thrilled the crowd with “If You Want Me” from the soundtrack and Hansard sang “Fitzcarraldo,” a Frames song.

The night had a nice mix of Swell Season songs (new and old) and lovely solo project numbers, but for this anniversary celebration we wanted more from Once, and they delivered by ending the set with “Falling Slowly.” Instead of exiting the stage before the encore, Hansard made an impromptu leap off stage and into the garden inviting Irglova to join him for an un-mic’d “Say It To Me Now” singalong with the crowd. The band returned to the stage and ended the show with “Gold.”

The songs from the soundtrack, Once, portray the emotions of “Falling Slowly” in love. The post-soundtrack music of Swell Season represents the struggles of a relationship in crisis. If their new single, “The Answer is Yes,” is any indicator of what’s to come for this magnetic duo, I imagine that their next album will reflect their undeniable, creative chemistry.

What an amazing evening, probably my favorite Red Butte Garden night of the summer. The crowd came to listen and the gray skies helped transport us to Ireland. I even paired the evening’s performance with a trusty stout. Thankfully, the early drizzle (merely a prop) left as quickly as it came and we enjoyed a warm, dry night of stunning music in the garden. 

Who: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of Swell Season w/ Lizzie Weber

What: 15th Anniversary Tour of the Once Soundtrack

Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre

When: Monday, August 21, 2023


Get the latest on arts and entertainment in and around Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

John Nelson
John Nelson
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

Similar Articles

Most Popular