Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Swell Season

Glen Hansard was talking about last October, when he played Iota with Marketa Irglova. "There were about 10 people there," he said. He gazed over the floor of the 9:30 club, filled to capacity Thursday night. "Something's happened." That something is "Once," a low-key romance starring Hansard and Irglova as aspiring musicians, which has become a surprise art-house hit. The 90-minute show, billing the duo as the Swell Season, didn't touch that already-fabled Iota gig in terms of intimacy or raw emotion, but it was technically superior.

The pair's songs -- delicate, personal reflections set mainly to Hansard's acoustic guitar and Irglova's piano -- sounded polished and sturdy, buoyed by striking harmonies and an obvious personal chemistry. Hansard has claimed that he and Irglova shared a brief romantic fling and are now just friends. But watching them interact, especially during the smoldering "If You Want Me," made that claim seem spurious.

Hansard played some tunes from his other band, the Frames, paid homage to Van Morrison ("Into the Mystic") and conducted a pointless romp through Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere." The evening's most telling (and edgiest) interlude, however, was a slashing electric-guitar-and-voice duet with Irglova on the Pixies' "Cactus." Too bad it's not on the soundtrack.

-- Patrick Foster

Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers

The first thing you notice about Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers is the appealing energy and easy charisma of the lanky, angular Clyne. The second thing you realize is, these Arizonans are very good at making catchy, country-tinged rock anthems, which came as no surprise to the crowd singing along Thursday night at the State Theatre.

Guitarist Steve Larson, his black straw cowboy hat shadowing his eyes, provided driving, hook-filled melodies and laid big rock riffs on the rhythmic bedrock provided by bassist Nick Scropos and drummer P.H. Naffah.

Clyne, playing rhythm on a baby-blue electric guitar, was clearly born to be a frontman. With his looks and the band's sound, the effect was a Southwest version of early INXS.

Clyne sang about relationships ("Maybe We Should Fall in Love," "Easy") and goofing off ("Mexico") with a mixture of passion and whimsy, and the set moved at a deliriously rapid pace. (If anything, the show seemed rushed, as if the band was running late to a dinner.)

So far, Clyne's claim to fame is the theme song to the Fox series "King of the Hill." His records and concerts deserve a bigger audience.

-- Buzz McClain

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