The Swell Season Caps a Swell Season

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The writers may have been back for the 80th annual Academy Awards, held on February 24, but that fact didn't automatically transform the ceremony into scintillating television. The show still dragged past the three-hour mark, padded by too many interchangeable montages and a speech by 98-year-old art designer/special honoree Robert Boyle that seemed to last roughly as long as his half-century-plus career. But at least there were plenty of surprises among the winners -- and none happier than the victory by recent Westword profile subject Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who won an Oscar in the Best Original Song category for "Falling Slowly," a gorgeous air that graces the indie gem Once.

Hansard and Irglová, who call themselves the Swell Season, seemed a bit tentative during their performance of the tune during the broadcast, likely owing to quasi-obtrusive accompaniment by a studio orchestra arrayed beneath the stage. Moreover, the pair's subsequent spotlight time nearly turned to distaster. Following the announcement of their triumph, Hansard offered a few exuberant thank-yous and then Irglová stepped to the microphone, only to be blasted away by the aforementioned symphony types, operating under the whip-hand of conducter Bill "Gonna Fly Now" Conti. But this awkward moment turned positive following a commercial break, when host Jon Stewart invited Irglová back to the stage to have her say -- and she was able to speak longer and with less pressure knowing that Conti had holstered his baton.

In a charming and revealing Backbeat Online Q&A posted last November, Hansard allowed himself to picture being nominated and performing at the Oscars -- but actually taking the trophy was likely beyond even his vivid imagination. Not so the folks at AEG Live, the local arm of gazillionaire Phil Anschutz's live-entertainment promotion firm. Prior to the big night, they booked the Swell Season into the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for a Saturday, May 3, performance, gambling on Academy Awards exposure and tremendous word of mouth from a November 13 gig at the Ogden Theatre to justify the jump to this large venue. Right now, their bet seems like a good one. Tickets for the forthcoming appearance go on sale February 29. Those who pass them by will be missing a second chance at a Once in a lifetime experience. -- Michael Roberts


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