Frames | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Over the last few albums by the Irish group the Frames, front man Glen Hansard has developed a knack for turning each song into an intimate conversation. It's no easy trick, especially since nearly all his material travels the well-churned, dangerously overcrowded waters that surround troubled and failed relationships. But though the conversations are frequently volatile, with weary whispers yielding to explosive pleas, the soulful imperfection of Hansard's breathy, reedy voice and the pinpoint folk-rock arrangements of his efficient band keep them from becoming overwrought. On the new Burn the Maps (Anti-) meticulously layered guitar and fiddle (plus the occasional full-scale string chart) give the songs gravitas without bombast, and the bounty of rich melodies leavens the lyrical bitterness ("You're telling me I should forget you / But why?"), making it easy to empathize with these heartbroken narrators and their futile arguments and rationalizations. Hansard's conversational skills are displayed even more impressively on last year's live album, Set List. I'm a cynic about the supposedly transformative power of rock performance--its epiphanies nearly always feel scripted and dutiful--but here the connection between the Frames and their audience is astonishing. Mark Geary and Cinjun Tate open. Sat 3/5, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $16, 18+.

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