Brian Fallon & The Crowes, Chris Farren, Dead Swords: O2 Academy, Liverpool

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

With The Gaslight Anthem frontman playing his first gig in the city, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby finds out if Brian Fallon can do it on his own. 

The Gaslight Anthem have never played Liverpool, meaning frontman Brian Fallon‘s solo show is his debut in the city.

Keeping it somewhat in the family, the main support tonight comes from Chris Farren of Fake Problems. The band and Gaslight go way back, with the latter covering Songs For Teenagers (which, wisely, Farren performs tonight).

His set is actually part brilliant, part hillarious. He has a pedal that occasionally plays loud applause, much to the everyone’s amusement. After his last song he keeps it going and then switches it off abruptly, eliciting full-blown belly laughs around the Academy.

Weirdly, there is no music played over the PA between acts. The only sound was that of chatter and roadies sound checking guitars. We’re not sure if we have ever been to a gig where that has happened before. It did give us a chance to check out the crowd. The age range was striking – from young teens to older fans, all mingling together. It seems that no matter what the current fads are, a great songwriter will always have across the board appeal.

When he appeared, Brian Fallon had an instantly likeable presence. He was laid back and chatty throughout. Several incredibly lengthy – one might say rambling – monologues kept the crowd laughing as much as his songs kept people cheering. Early on he claimed he wasn’t going to try a scouse accent because whenever an American tries to sound like they’re from these parts, they just sound like “Paul McCartney has done a handful of quaaludes“. But he is soon coaxed into attempting one, and asks the crowd for suggestions. Someone shouts “Fuck Donald Trump!” He obliges to a roar of approval.

Painkillers, his first true solo album, is certainly a step up from The Gaslight Anthem‘s previous effort, Get Hurt. That album was informed by the break up of Fallon‘s marriage, but the new album returns to the hopeful Americana one would expect from Brian.

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It is no surprise that the set is majorly made up of songs from Painkillers, but also songs from his side project The Horrible Crowes, whose sole album – the dark, brooding Elsie – was released in 2011. These were some of the most effective songs of the night, with Ladykiller in particular being a stand out, as was the penultimate track, Behold The Huricaine.

He didn’t air any of his band’s oldies, but he did bring out a few covers. When speaking of where he comes from, he said “I wanna tell you about my hometown” and began playing I’m On Fire, the classic hit from fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen.

More surprising was a song with a sombre opening, and it wasn’t until he began singing “You think I’m pretty without any make-up on/You think I’m funny when I tell the punch line wrong” that we realised he was treating us to a gut-wrenching rendition of Katy Perry‘s Teenage Dream. It would be easy to write this off as a novelty cover, but he found a soul and a longing that isn’t present in the original recording.

As much as this writer adores The Gaslight Anthem, it is clear that Fallon doesn’t necessarily need the band (although, we noticed Gaslight guitarist Alex Rosamilia in The Crowes). The crowd knew most of his solo tracks word for word and he held them in the palm of his hand. Importantly, despite Fallon‘s distinctive voice, this didn’t feel like a Gaslight Anthem show. There was a totally different vibe that has separated Brian Fallon, the solo artist from Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem.

However, if and when the mothership decides to end their hiatus, we hope tonight has convinced Brian not to leave the city off the list.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody

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