Two years after seeing the film Once, starring Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, I had missed a handful of opportunities to see them in concert. Tickets to their Washington shows were too pricey, and tickets sold out too fast when they came to Korea in January. So imagine my shock and glee when Monica, one of the Korean teachers at SEV, said the duo, who goes by The Swell Season, was returning to Seoul as part of the city’s annual Jazz Festival. Really enjoyed the film, but loved the soundtrack. Was I reduced to tears watching them perform at last year’s Oscars? Yes, and Erin can vouch for that one.

I’d say my eyes stayed dried this past Friday night, but that would be a lie. This concert, held at the massive Sejong Center near City Hall. was one of the best I’ve been to. Hansard and Irglova were funny and real and were true to their original songs (a bit of a “screw you” to Bon Jovi, who did an absolutely horrid version of “Livin’ on a Prayer” a couple of years back at the MCI Center). They had a few special guests come up to perform, including Sungha Jung, a little kid who lives a few hours outside of Seoul and whose video Hansard and Irglova saw on YouTube. (We thought he’d play “Falling Slowly,” but no, he played Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”)

One of the highlights of the show came when everyone unplugged their instruments and stood on the edge of the stage, feet away from the audience. Everyone in the theater, all 2,000 of us, fell silent and, from three stories up, we could hear everything–Marketa’s quiet voice, Glen strumming on his guitar. I found a video of them doing the same thing when they were here in January. Not amazing quality, but you get the idea.

Also of mention was the opening act, Liam O’Maonlai. He came out to perform shoeless and in a suit a few sizes too big and amped everyone up with both Irish and African music. I’d never heard of him before this weekend, but he’s been on the music scene for years now. Check him out here.

The ushers were pretty strict (with foreigners) about camera use during the show, but I managed to sneak a few shots. The rest are up on Erin’s blog.

Sejong Center in the rain

Sejong Center in the rain

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The only somewhat decent shot I got. And Marketa isn't even in it. Forbidden photo fail.

The only somewhat decent shot I got. And Marketa isn't even in it. Forbidden photo fail.

I even sneaked out the camera and got seven seconds of video. Didn’t think the quality would come out as good as it did, but was I ever surprised:

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