Venue: Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Date: 23rd August 2012
Promoter: Greenhorn Productions
Review by: Celeste G.
Special Thanks: Sylvia & the Greenhorn Productions team
Whilst there is no competition, however subtle, the Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova duo, or The Swell Season, is often compared to the Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan duo. When Irglova decided to pursue her solo career with the release of her debut album, Anar, late last year, without Hansard, one can’t help but wonder: Can Irglova hold it up all on her own, or will her music lack the magic only available with Hansard around, much like how Rice on his own can’t achieve the astoundment he did before parting ways with Hannigan, and vice versa?
The atmosphere was quiet, and the audience still, that night at the Esplanade Recital Studio. As if waiting with bated breath on how Irglova will perform to our expectations. Like a formal piano recital, the prim and proper applause sounded as Irglova padded barefoot onstage towards the piano. Emotions jolted to a high almost immediately, as she eased us into the night’s concert with one of her first numbers from the 2006 musical film, Once – The Hill.
Although Irglova has thus far released one album, she barely performed any tracks from Anar, save Dokhtar Goochani and We Are Good. Juggling between reminiscence of The Swell Season and Once, Irglova pretty much plucked the rest of the night’s playlist from thin air. Accompanying her through this were her friends, Aida Shahghasemi on Daf, and two members from The Swell Season, guitarist Rob Bochnik and bassist Joe Doyle. They not only backed Irglova up by the piano, but also shone in their own individualistic manner under the spotlight, with the Czech singer/songwriter accommodating them the same way they have complemented themselves with her – something not often seen at a solo musician’s concert. That was when the audience witnessed how much these musicians mean to her, and not only how much she meant to them.
It was more of a “Marketa Irglova and Friends” concert. We were treated to a fusion of music that night, besides the Irish lovesick kind fans have gotten used with The Swell Season. There was that tinge of country and Americanised folk from Rob and Joe in Because of You and the Neil Young cover, Out on the Weekend, respectively, and a taste of Iranian music from Aida.
Her performance particularly, and surprisingly, captivated all that night, when she first took over at the beginning of the show in Phoenix, shining brightly with the Daf, and at the same time, soared like a bloodstained sun over dusk with her vibrato vocals. Goosebumps pricked skins, while this simultaneous brick of sadness and peace sank down on us that night in Dokhtar Goochani and Domu.
As quietly as the night has started, Irglova ended it all with the serene Swell Season number, I Have Loved You Wrong. Her meticulous vocals over the calmness of the piano, matched with the skeletal foundation of Rob’s riffs, and the subtle backbone of Aida’s Daf and Joe’s bass, which all eventually fell away, leaving us with their harmonious and tranquil a capella vocals for the perfect end.
And yes, Irglova has proven that she can pretty much hold things together on her own. A singer/songwriter of her own style and accord, avoiding monotony – something singers/songwriters often fall prey for. All you need is a little help from your friends to make the night less one-dimensional.