Markéta Irglová•Glen Hansard•August 21, 2023•Red Butte Garden
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
There have been some huge concerts this summer. We at Utah Concert Review have had the opportunity to cover many of them. Massive shows out at USANA like the Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, and Shania Twain, or at Delta Center with major favorites like The Cure, NF, and Greta Van Fleet have made this summer special. But Markéta Irglová & Glen Hansard of The Swell Season at Red Butte Garden was one of my most anticipated concerts of the year. These artists at this venue are as good a match as you’ll find in a concert experience.
Red Butte Garden is one of the best summer venues in Utah. This time of year is my favorite time to see a show there. It’s still Summer and the weather is still hot. But the sun is going down sooner, and once the sun is set at Red Butte Garden it starts to cool down. The flowers and trees surround the amphitheater and it feels like an excluded place far outside the city even though it’s right in Salt Lake City near the campus of the University of Utah. It’s fun to see familiar faces each time I go to a show there. It’s a great place to see a concert and I loved that these artists were playing there.
I saw Glen Hansard back in 2019 and it was an incredible experience. I’ve been excited to see him come back to Utah. I don’t think I ever expected that he would return with his bandmate from The Swell Season, Markéta Irglová. The duo famously won The Oscar for Best Song for “Falling Slowly” at the 80th Annual Academy Awards from the film Once. Which they both starred in as well. They performed as a duo from 2005-2011. I figured that their co-writing and performing days were over. So when I heard the announcement that they would be performing together this summer, and at Red Butte Garden, I knew I was not missing this concert. And for me, the show did not disappoint in any way.
Four songs in, Markéta and Glen performed the first of their many great songs from the Once Soundtrack. The very moment the first notes of the song “When Your Mind’s Made Up” began, the crowd propped up and paid even more attention than they already had been. The moment stopped me in my tracks. I had finished doing photos and was about to walk back to my seat. But as soon as I heard the song I stopped and sat behind the soundboard until the song was over. I just had to sit and take in the moment. When the song was over the crowd erupted. It wouldn’t be the last time that happened.
Markéta Irglová played a song she had recently written called “I Leave Everything To You. She mentioned that it was a song about her kids. I loved this night’s audience. The place was silent. I doubt anyone had heard this song before. I could see it being a situation where people would quickly tune out and start chatting. But I didn’t notice any of that. People intently listened. They were rewarded by getting to hear the great song, “The Moon” next. Hansard mentioned that the moon on this night was not visible due to cloud cover. But in Colorado the previous night they were able to perform the song with a beautiful overhead. Way to rub it in Glen.
I’m sure it was beautiful and wished we would have had that experience. The song however was not dimmed in any way. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece and is meant to be heard live. “Leave” was another song from Once that left the crowd in awe only to follow the moment with a huge ovation.
There were a few great surprises in the middle of the set. The duo performed “Low Rising” with their band and as the song seemed to be ending they began to play “Into The Mystic”. I felt like a lot of people in the audience noticed this Van Morrison classic immediately. I have to admit I wasn’t sure what it was until Glen Hansard started to sing. So good on those fans who knew right away. The Swell Season actually recorded a version of this song and it can be heard on the Collectors Edition of the soundtrack. Another happy surprise was when opener Lizzie Weber came out and performed “The River” with Markéta. That was followed by Irglová performing my favorite song that she sings, “If You Want Me”.
The night seemed to be flying by. I did not want it to end. Each song and each performance seemed to be better than the last. The main set ended in the only way it possibly could have. To watch Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard perform “Falling Slowly” together was a moment that I will hold onto for a long time. I’m not sure what I expected at that moment. I knew it would be good. And I knew that it would be played. But when it happened it became this special moment. Emotions seemed to run high throughout the crowd. It did not seem lost on the duo how much this song means to people. They put all of their heart into it. I don’t have the words to adequately describe how moving the moment was.
Glen returned to the stage alone and was then joined by Markéta shortly after. He stepped down to the front of the garden at the front of the Red Butte stage. With his acoustic guitar unplugged and with no microphone he began to sing out to the audience the great song, “Say It To Me Now”. What a moment. I’m sure they do this at every stop. But this performance felt so personal to us. I was right there by them. It felt like it just was me and the few people in front of me in attendance. I knew everyone else in the crowd was there, but they were a blur. For a second I felt like a millionaire who hired one of his favorite bands to perform at a party for him and a few buddies. It was really cool.
Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard of The Swell Season returned to the stage and closed out the night with one of my all-time favorite songs, “Gold”. What’s weird is right before they sang it I thought, “I wonder what they’re going to close with?”. They had such a rich setlist that I completely forgot they hadn’t done this one yet. It goes without saying (but I guess I’m saying it anyway) that this was the perfect ending to the perfect night. People were on their feet, singing along, swaying, and just totally taking in the final moments of my favorite night at Red Butte Garden this summer.
I don’t know how long Glen and Markéta will be performing together. They mentioned that they had gotten together to write a song for the tour and ended up with 18 songs. So I’m hopeful that means a new album and potentially another tour together. If that’s the case, I can’t recommend seeing them enough. I would go as far as saying even if you’ve never heard of them or don’t know any songs of theirs, just go. You will be so glad you did. What a magnificent evening at Red Butte Garden!