Glen Hansard tends to get discovered in stages. Some might know him as the frontman for the long-running Irish rock band the Frames. Others fell in love with his songs and his performance in “Once.” Out of that indie 2007 film rose the Swell Season, which hinged on the intimacy he shared with Markéta Irglová, his costar and real-life lover until a few years ago.
At Berklee Performance Center Tuesday night, Hansard assumed yet another role: an assured solo artist who’s more than ready and willing to hold his own. Hansard is touring behind “Rhythm and Repose,” his debut solo release, and his performance was faithful to that album’s mix of poignancy and brute force.
Even with a 10-piece band — which included three horn players, three string musicians, a bassist, a drummer, a guitarist, and a pianist — Hansard was determined to keep the show cozy. Seated at the piano, he opened with “The Storm, It’s Coming” and burrowed into the lyrics slowly, until his voice grew coarser and louder on the chorus.
Hansard is a passionate musician, and it was hard not to get wrapped up in the emotional intensity he brought to songs such as “Low Rising” and “Bird of Sorrow.” His guitar playing was so visceral on Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” nearly crossing the line into thrash metal, that you suddenly understood why his acoustic looked so battered.
He’s so passionate, in fact, that he didn’t know when to leave the stage. Two hours felt a little too long, puffed up with detours that included a convincing but gratuitous cover of the reggae classic “Get Up, Stand Up.”
After what appeared to be the last song, a stirring rendition of The Band’s “Don’t Do It” (some of Hansard’s band had played with the late Levon Helm), Hansard decided he had one more in him: “Falling Slowly,” the Swell Season’s signature (and Academy Award-winning) song. From the front row he called up a young woman who was suspiciously at ease and poised by Hansard’s side. Their voices mingled well, not unlike how Hansard had sung it originally with Irglova.
The moment didn’t seem scripted, though; the song was not listed on a set list I spotted someone carrying on her way out the door. Indeed, Hansard leaned in at the end of it and asked the woman her name. It captured the principle that had guided the entire evening: Sing it only because your heart tells you to.