Reviewed on Saturday October 22 (photo by Ashley Mar)

Irish songsmith Glen Hansard made special effort to start bang on 9pm, not out of mere cordiality, but in a genuine effort to cram as much of his music into the two-hour slot as he possibly could.

Taking to the Opera House stage with a dozen musicians, Hansard looked thrilled to be back, and to call his receival warm would be an understatement: the Concert Hall was half-Irish, half-sozzled and completely in love with the singer.

First and foremost, Hansard is a storyteller, the kind of stranger you want to sit next to at the pub. And doesn’t he ramble! Every song was carried in with a tale of its origins and dedications to musicians, lovers and memories. His guitar bore the scars to prove every last story true, stripped of varnish by thousands upon thousands of Hansard’s pick strokes.

Once fans were rewarded with both ‘Falling Slowly’ and the show-stopping ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’, but Hansard had surprises aplenty up his sleeve, including covers of Van Morrison and Woody Guthrie (‘Vigilante Man’ repurposed as an anti-Trump anthem), as well as a deeply moving tribute to Gene Wilder in the form of ‘Pure Imagination’.

Hopeless romanticism doesn’t seem so hopeless in Hansard’s realm, particularly not when carried aloft on his soaring high notes. The man’s voice is incomparable, always reaching higher and further than you expect, building to a roar before suddenly dropping back to a whisper.

The band provided ample harmonies and took to lead vocals as Hansard generously ceded the spotlight for them, and whoever arranged for his more intimate compositions should have their own standing ovation. We were given a particular treat that felt more like it was for Glen’s sake than for ours, as a great Irish pianist took to the keys to showcase two intimate pieces of his own devising, each linked to his family and his country.

It’s a good thing Hansard’s a charmer, too, as the band filled significantly more than its allotted time. The encore lasted until 11:30pm, the night closing with Hansard alone and off-mic, filling the room with that voice.

The whole band’s love of nation was vibrant and inclusive, and if we could take only a shred of this generosity and wonder into the world outside the Opera House, we would live blessed lives.