On Tuesday evening, it was announced that Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard would play a surprise pop-up show at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo, as part of their award-winning benefit concert series Live From Home, which raises funds to support the non-profit’s fight to end AIDS and homelessness. His second solo album, Didn’t He Ramble, was due to be released a couple days later and this appearance offered fans a chance to hear him perform some of the songs live before his return to New York later this year.
I first saw Glen perform at PJ20 (Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary festival back in 2011), but had yet to attend one of his own shows. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of seeing him perform at midnight in a bookstore and jumped at the opportunity to go. After purchasing my ticket, I curiously Googled Housing Works’ capacity, which TheKnot.com revealed to be “201-250.” My suspicions were correct – it was as if Glen was inviting us into his living room.
Upon entering the bookstore/café, I made my way to the back of the store where the “stage” was set up. It was a romantic, dimly lit setting, accentuated by (electric) candles throughout the bookshelves, with most of the attendees sitting on the floor.
The show opened with “Just To Be the One,” a track from Glen’s new album, Didn’t He Ramble, just released this past Friday. The intimacy of the cozy bookstore was quickly felt as the notes echoed warmly from the shelves. A series of witty remarks and anecdotes filled the space between songs, furthering the living room vibe and making it feel as though he was playing for a group of familiar friends. He made several allusions to a book he noticed on a nearby shelf titled The Secret Lives of Frames, joking that a store employee must have left it in sight so that he might buy it. Frames violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire and drummer Graham Hopkins joined him on several tracks, with Iomaire running onstage mid-song to join in after coming from his own gig at Rockwood Music Hall just hours before. “Bird of Sorrow” highlighted the back half of the set, starting out delicately somber before giving way to a spirited drum and horn frenzy at the end.
Glen stayed behind after the show to take pictures and chat with fans without seeming to be in much of a hurry, cementing the intimate vibe of the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed this rare opportunity to watch such a talented performer up close and Housing Works provided the perfect setting, a combination which made the show an absolute treat for those lucky enough to attend.
Upcoming Appearances in NYC:
Colm Mac Con Iomaire: 9/20 – Scratcher Cafe
Glen Hansard: 11/30 – Kings Theatre, 12/1 – Beacon Theatre
Article: Nicole Shyti
Photos: Carin Cohen