At the sold-out Swell Season show at the Beacon Theatre last night, Frames front man and unlikely indie heartthrob Glen Hansard was ebullient over the success of the movie Once. “About a year ago we played to 70 people at Tonic,” he said. “And now we’re at the Beacon. Amazing.” The story of the barely known musician cast in his ex-bandmate’s low-budget love story who starts dating his much-younger musician co-star and is a favorite to be nominated for a “Best Song” Oscar is enough to warm even Sasha Frere-Jones’s anti-indie heart. Hansard’s affection for his music, his girlfriend, and his life in the past year created an intimacy that spread even to the balcony. Early on, the show was like sitting in on someone else’s date, one early in the relationship where the couple lies around in front of the stereo and goes through their music collection, CDs strewn everywhere, talking of and listening to the music that moves them.
Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the Czech pianist and singer, are indeed lovely together and rewarded the audience with a sweet, tender kiss (as well as the bulk of the movie’s elegant soundtrack). But though Irglova has the voice and talent to wow, the duo relies heavily on Hansard. It is his passionate vocals, his perfervid strumming, that pulls the audience wherever he wants them to go. He is a more mature performer as well. Irglova played piano with her back to the audience and, the few times she sang with a guitar from center stage, seemed fragile and small. Hansard, even alone, was big, and tremendous when backed by his Frames cohorts. (In an especially generous moment, Hansard & Co. left the stage to violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire who had “an amazing new tune” Hansard wanted us all to hear. And it was.) The audience, who may have expected Irglova and Hansard to be more evenly distributed, can turn to the Frames now to satisfy their Glen Hansard fix. Or wait for the Oscars, and petition Elliot Smith to intercede. Aileen Gallagher