Thursday, November 26, 2009

Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater

If music is the international language then seeing The Swell Season at Seattle’s Paramount Theater is like a therapy session in a penthouse suite. Commissioned by Paramount Pictures in the late 1920’s, the Paramount’s decadent décor filled with high arches, ornate touches and multiple chandeliers has seen Broadway, dance, theater and music ranging from vaudeville to Madonna’s first stop on her 1985 “The Virgin Tour”. When I was young I told my parents that if I ever won the lottery the first thing I would do is buy the Paramount, just to ensure no one ever tore it down. Luckily a Microsoft executive beat me to it pouring millions of dollars into restorations in 1993 leaving me free to dream of other extravagant indulgences.

No matter how beautiful the surroundings, the only thing capturing the attention of the audience on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2009 was the commanding presence of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who make up The Swell Season. These Irish (well, okay mostly, she’s Czech, but he and his bandmates are all Irish lads) indie darlings captured international attention in 2008 winning an Academy Award for “Falling Slowly” from the film Once, not to mention one of the first times I have ever seen an allowance for an extended acceptance speech!

This pair is inspiring on a number of levels. Their lyrics are full of hope in the face of struggle while the juxtaposition of Glen’s passion-filled wails with Marketa’s quiet, sprite-ish stature exhibits strength in every form. These unassuming stars are well aware of their roots and are known for wandering the streets of any city they play, finding a favorite struggling musician and inviting them to perform onstage in front of packed houses.  Their performances are full of quirky moments from Irglova’s incorporation of her vintage Casio keyboard to Hansard breaking three guitar strings mid-song, forcing a stagehand to run a new instrument onstage multiple times, but refusing to leave the melody unfinished.

But don’t take my word for it, you can stream songs on their website and decide for yourself!

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