Glen Hansard, Belfast

Seeing Glen Hansard and the frames seems to be an annual pre-Christmas tradition for me at this stage. It was great to see them in Belfast this year, as its one of my favourite places. I’d never been to the refurbished Ulster Hall before, they’ve really turned it into a great venue!

The support Act, Seti the First weren’t the most exciting band I’ve ever seen, but I did like their cello playing!

When you hear Glen Hansard, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d imagine it to be a solo gig, but in fact there were, I think eleven people on stage, six more than the usual Frames band. This made it sound fantastic, very different to anything I’ve heard before, largely due to the addition of a trumpet in a lot of the songs. Naturally Glen played a lot of songs from his solo album ‘rhythm and repose’, which I’ve enjoyed listening to much more since hearing these songs live.

The band played:

You Will Become

Talking With The Wolves

Philander

Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting – Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Low Rising – Here Comes the Night (Van Morrison)

When Your Mind’s Made Up – with the audience singing along

Bird of Sorrow

Leave

Lay Me Down

Astral Weeks** (Van Morrison) – Smile** (Pearl Jam)

High Hope

Movin On

Santa Maria

Revelate

Where Is My Mind (Pixies)

Song of Good Hope – to the most silent, respectful audience I’ve ever heard in Belfast

Encore:

This Gift

Hey Day (Mic Christopher) – Glen quietly sang the chorus unaccompanied. The audience joined in and I think he intended playing the whole song later, but it never happened!

Don’t Do It (Marvin Gaye/The Band)

Falling Slowly – He broke a string during this, but not even during Astral Weeks! 😀

Fitzcarraldo

Passing Through (Leonard Cohen)

This was the perfect end to a great, almost two and a half hour set. Glen and the band walked around the venue, with the audience singing along. I think it could have turned into a very long night if the venues 11 PM curfew wasn’t so strict.

I love introducing new people to The Frames live shows, so it was great that they managed to impress my boyfriend! We spent the evening with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a while. When we went to the pub for a drink with them, ‘star star’ came on, and a big cheer indecated that we weren’t the only people in the pub who had been to the gig!

Another reason why the night was so enjoyable was how well our guide dogs were looked after. When I contacted the Ulster Hall to enquire about having the dogs watched during the gig because it would be too loud for them, they weren’t too keen at first. Nicky suggested I email them to outline in writing exactly what I wanted and how little work it would be. The staff, Zoe in particular couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly to us and the dogs.

We stayed in Benedicts hotel because I knew they’d be good with the dogs too, and its usually the best value hotel in Belfast. They gave us the wheelchair accessible room, which had lots of space. It also had two dog bowls and beds for the dogs on the floor, so we were very impressed! Every member of staff we met (and there were a lot of them) was so helpful and polite.

Other venues and services could learn a lot from the management of Benedicts hotel and the Ulster Hall. I hope they all have a lovely Christmas, because the staff members we met all did their businesses proud last weekend.

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We’ve been busy!

Hard to believe its the second week of December already, getting closer to Christmas and I can’t wait! As usual, Decembers a busy month, but the last week in particular has been fun.

 

We had our Christmas party in work last Wednesday. Its for all our employees and clients, so there’s usually a good crowd. This year wasn’t as lively as before, but we made the most of it. Even O J was on the dance floor by the end of the night.

I worked the next day and went to see Mark Geary with a friend that evening. He hadn’t played in Derry in a long time, and Natasha hadn’t seen him in a while. I wanted to do something nice with her before she goes to Australia in the new year, so we were both looking forward to this. Conor McAtteer (from Derry) and The Lost Brothers played before. It was their first gig in Derry, and the majority of the audience seemed to be there to see them. They were fantastic, and it was a much better atmosphere than the gig I saw them play in the Workmans club in Dublin at the beginning of the year. Mark Geary played with a pianist and a female vocalist, which added a whole new sound to his songs. They sounded great and played a lovely set, but most of the audience were embarrassing. They talked loudly throughout the gig, which was worse because it was such a small venue. The woman in front of me was completely ignorant to say the least! Mark didn’t play as long as usual, and the stories he usually tells between songs were lost on this crowd. It was disappointing because I’ve seen him so many times and know how good he can be. When we talked to him after he seemed cool about it all, and promised he’d be back in Derry soon. Looking forward to it already 🙂

 

I travelled to Carlow on Friday morning with my dad, aunt and uncle. My mum and another aunt and uncle met us there, and we had a great weekend. Nicky organised his own Christmas concert, which went really well. Its interesting for me to watch him perform, because in some ways he’s much different, which for some reason I can’t really explain. There were other musicians and singers too, and they were all very different. There were five guide dogs in the audience, and they were all very quiet. Just as well, because there was a raffel in aid of Irish Guide Dogs, so they showed a good example.

We spent Saturday wandering around Carlow and relaxing in the pub with friends before going out for a lovely dinner. Our plans for Sunday had to change a bit, but O J complicated things further by needing to go to the vet. He has an absess which must have burst when the three dogs were playing the previous evening, so he got painkillers and anti-biotics for the rest of the week. He’s in great form and taking all the tablets easily enough.

Even though I’ve been spending time with lots of people, yesterday was the first day that I’ve actually felt in any way Christmasy. Children with special needs held a craft fair in the local primary school, so I bought presents and decorations for my house. Looking forward to getting the tree up at the weekend. I had the yaktracks on this morning on the way to work because the footpaths are all icey.

 

After all that, there were still two highlights of the week that I didn’t mention. One was the Bruce Springsteen tickets I bought myself for Christmas, because you have to get yourself a present, right? The other great thing was knowing that my brothers definitely coming for Christmas and will be here on Christmas eve. Its going to be great!