A return to Parterre the next night brings some of the return attendees (including myself) a strange feeling that I’m going to describe as quizzical anticipation (yep I just made that phrase up!!) – ‘What can he do tonight to make it better than last night? Is that even possible?’
There was a late summer vibe to the venue tonight resulting from a very relaxed day of beautiful sunshine in Basel. As a sufferer of a serious Vitamin D deficiency (aka London dweller) I spent all the time I possibly could outdoors walking around Basel taking in the rays and enjoying the local flea market.
It seemed to me that the sunshine beckoned a feeling of calm happiness which was shared by the audience and the performers which was to make for an unforgettable evening.
Ollie was upbeat (and still enamoured with his new hat) after similarly spending the day delving into the delights of Basel. The stage was not a stranger and he eased into his playlist of five songs with genuine pleasure. He expressed concern that the attendees from last night (or other shows) were subject to repeats of his new tunes but he was encouraged by advice from the crowd that had assisted them in getting to know his songs better.
Before leaving the stage, Ollie conveyed his sincere appreciation to organiser Andrea (from Paterre) who has looked after their every whim and provided them with a truly enjoyable few days in Basel.
Glen stepped on stage tonight a smidge earlier (around 9.40pm) and kicked off his set with four songs which didn’t appear on the setlist the night before. The highlight of these songs for me is Plateau. Glen has on previous occasions advised that this song was written on a significant birthday (his 30th I believe) and it holds a personal significance to me at the moment. Although I of course love The Frames version of this from Dance the Devil, it’s always great to see Glen strip down a song to its absolute bare essentials. To me this song for some reason also has a real Neil Young quality to it – it’s introspective but open and references the up and down moments in life and basically gives across a message of ‘you’ll be alright, things will change, you’ve just got to roll with it and keep moving forward’. Add to that a very cool Jane’s Addiction tag of ‘Jane Says’ at the end and you’ve got yourself a killer little set starter!
After the first four songs I find myself again marvelling at the venue and my incredible good fortune at being able to attend these gigs. Did I mention this place is small? It’s in fact so small that as an audience member you are at times somewhat intimidated by your proximity to the performer – especially someone like Glen who puts so much physically into his performance and who always leaves everything on the stage. At one point Glen stops mid-song advising us that he is distracted by some foam coming from his mouth and he hopes the same hasn’t travelled far enough to distract anyone up front – yep we are truly only spitting distance away!
Many people of course know Glen best from ‘Once’ and there are often requests from the audience for him to fix broken hoovers and so forth. You would think that for Glen these calls would get somewhat tiresome, so we are all surprised when Glen tags on part of Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy to tonight’s rendition of Lies after a ‘hoover guy’ comment from an audience member the night before – it’s good to know that Glen does still appreciate his hoover fixer days (but then again why wouldn’t he?).
We then move on to the start of the ‘beat the Horse’ phase of the night. A particularly forceful end to Angel at my Table leads to the night’s first broken string. We are entertained by a mainly crowd-sung version of Daniel Johnston’s Devil Town whilst Glen deals with the offending string. The entertainment continues when Glen bursts into the first verse of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock delivered in a somewhat unusual singing voice for no apparent reason – nothing like keeping the crowd on its collective toes!
The main set then edges towards its end with Falling Slowly which is dedicated to EV (aka Eddie Vedder) a man who Glen believes has reached a higher plane of living in human form – he’s not going to get any argument from me on that one! It’s great to hear that this particular bromance continues – long may it continue.
A second string on the Horse is broken during When Your Mind’s Made Up, and Glen switches to piano for It’s Coming whilst Ollie obligingly agrees to fix said string. The version of this song took my breath away last night, and tonight it went one better making me well up like a big sook – it’s really that good. The set ends with a heartfelt Suffer in Silence and Glen records part of the track and then plays a delicate solo over it and leaves the stage with the recording still going.
The first encore leads to a further and more serious beating of the Horse with Glen breaking not one but three strings during Astral Weeks. Those who are closest also see another small chunk from the Horse go flying across the stage and we collectively gasp. We shudder to think what is going to happen the day that the Horse actually gives up the ghost.
With the evening being over for the Horse, Glen takes the opportunity to switch to a guitar which he says has been made from local materials by a Swiss man named Rene. It’s a lovely looking instrument and Glen is decidedly gentle with it during Say It To Me Now/Gold. Ollie is again invited up tonight to perform one of his own songs, and then Glen immediately joins him afterwards for a spirited version of Mic Christopher’s Listen Girl which segues in to Bob Dylan’s Forever Young with the multi-talented Fiachra again assisting on one of the verses.
Glen thanks the audience profusely and heads off stage. If he thinks he’s getting away that easily he is mistaken and the crowd continues to roar their approval until he appears back on stage for a second encore with Fiachra taking lead vocals on Dean Martin song ‘I Will’ – it’s 60s, it’s cheesy and I completely love it!!
In wrapping up the night Glen gives huge thanks to Andrea from Parterre who has organised these shows following a chance meeting with him at another concert in Zurich some 12 months beforehand. Let me also at this stage express my own personal thanks to Andrea (a true and sincere fan of Glen’s work) as well – not only did she assist me in getting tickets for these shows by giving me tips for the Swiss German ticket site but she also gave spot on recommendations for accommodation, restaurants and things to do in Basel – Andrea you completely rock and I know I am not the only person who thinks so!
Andrea graciously responds by begging Glen to play her favourite song of his (which she apparently asked for earlier in the day but Glen forgot to play!!). Glen of course obliges with a sweet version of What Happens When the Heart Just Stops and then he finally leaves the stage just over 2 hours and 50 minutes from the time he first stepped on. We are all officially ‘spent’.
It’s now been a couple of days since the show and I am maintaining that it is one of THE best concert experiences I’ve ever had (and let me tell you I’ve been to a fair few shows over the years so it’s a big call!). The super-intimate venue, the musicians, the songs and the audience – it just all came together in a way that I can’t fully express in words – my heart was filled beyond capacity.
Danke Glen, Danke Ollie, Danke Fiachra & Danke Andrea and Parterre for a truly memorable evening (and weekend).