I felt a little naked walking through the crowd at House Of Blues last night, being one of the few in the audience that didn’t have an arm sleeve tattoo. I didn’t realize it was a prerequisite for the show or I would’ve run to the nearest parlor to get “tatted up” as the inkers would call it. Despite my lack of body art, I was accepted into the throng of Gaslight Anthem fans excited to hear what frontman Brian Fallon’s solo stuff would sound like live. For my thoughts on Brian’s record Painkillers check out the review from last week.
Guitarist/backup singer Jared Hart play a short solo set to start the night off. A fine choice, as the musical style is obviously in line with Brian’s. Jared has a deep, scratchy voice that sounds like a young Tom Waits with a little more bourbon and cigarettes. He only got to play six or seven songs, which ranged from good to very good. He’s clearly a talented guy, but I would have skipped the cover of “Forever Young.” It’s too hard a song to add something new to, and the original is so perfect you can’t really add anything to it. Other than that, a strong opener.
Austin Plaine came out after that, and was also really good. He had a guitarist and drummer with him, but they were able to sound like a five or six member band. Plaine’s voice is quite a bit softer, which allowed him to connect with the audience a bit more on an emotional level. He put out a self-titled record last year very much in the vein of other young singer/songwriters like Joe Pug or Vance Joy (for the kids). He and his band did a great cover of Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart” that really got the audience going.
It was nearing ten o’clock before Fallon finally hit the stage; a late night for a Sunday, but his loyal fans weren’t going to miss this show whether they were working Monday morning or not. People came from all over to see Fallon play, some because the tour is short and he’s not hitting too many towns, others because they caught one show already and had to check it out again. Whether it was the first or fourth time people were seeing him, the anticipation level was high.
My only experience with Gaslight Anthem came a couple years ago in Toronto when they played TURF in a 6 or 7pm set. It was ok, but I got the sense that the band wasn’t really as into it as they could have been. Being in a band for a decade can do that, so I wasn’t too surprised when I heard they were taking a break last year. And Fallon’s solo record is great; better than any Anthem record that I’ve heard anyway. So I was right there with the crowd, pumped to see a great concert.
And Fallon didn’t disappoint. He came out guns blazing with the one-two punch of “Last Rites” and “Red Lights.” He seemed much more loose than when I saw him before, and came off as a bit of a goofball. He threw some barbs at Hart for listening to Crass, tried to play a song wearing three different pairs of sunglasses, and just seemed to be having a ball.
My personal favorite song from Painkillers didn’t come until late in the set (13th of 17), so I got a little nervous that “Smoke” wouldn’t get played. I think one of the things that endears that song to me is the kind of ramshackle Springsteeniness of it. He’s not trying to sound like Bruce, it just so happens to be a song that you could see The Boss writing. It’s got a lot of soul, and you could feel it in the room when they played it.
Apparently Fallon has a no encore position, so when the show ended it was over. No questions asked. After the band finished up The Horrible Crowes track “Behold The Hurricane,” the lights went up and that was that. I actually thought the set would end after the epic jam at the end of “Crush.” It was a great false-flag operation with lights flashing and solos blaring like we’ve come to expect from a closer.
Biggest surprise for me, and maybe those that are bigger Gaslight/Fallon fans were not surprised at all, was Brian and Jared sharing the stage with the rest of the band taking a break to play Streetlight Manifesto’s “Linoleum.” That song came out in 2010 and it’s probably been since then that I heard it. I think I liked this light duo version with Fallon and Hart better than I ever liked the Manifesto version, but it was a shock to the ears for sure.
Based on the record, I knew I was going to like this show. I was a little worried that there would be a handful of Anthem covers that I wouldn’t be that into, and I’m honestly a little shocked/delighted that the set was so devoid of ’59 Sound tunes. Brian has a few more US dates before heading overseas for a while. I’m sure he’ll be back this summer and you should definitely check it out when he comes through your town.
Go Tell Everybody
A Wonderful Life
Open All Night
Behold The Hurricane