For me, Brian Fallon will always be one of those artists whose work seems to follow you throughout your life.
His deliciously husky tone, admittedly stemming from too many cigarettes and perhaps an over-aggressive Springsteen appreciation, combined with his unrelenting New Jersey nostalgia and fondness for self-deprecation, will forever distinguish him as of one of the most noteworthy post-punk-slash-alternative rock-slash-heartland folk musicians I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.
Fallon conserves subtle invention within his lyrics. Painkillers, his first solo album outside of The Gaslight Anthem microcosm, fulfils its namesake; it acts as a medicine, allowing temporary relief from your own internal obsessions. Fallon isn’t expecting to smash any records or prior perceptions of his artistry with this work, he’s trying to create an album that he himself would listen to when in need of respite.
Whilst I’m sadly unable to comment on the performance of the first support act, Dead Swords (I got lost on the way to the venue and missed their set, I’m terribly sorry, my German was, at the time, rather sub-par), second support, Chris Farren, put on a particularly remarkable show. The former Fake Problems frontman delivered an energetic and absurd performance, with tropical shirts and balcony climbing in abundance. Although an intimate venue, he managed to create a sense of something much bigger, maintaining both an enthusiastic and borderline stand-up set.
Opening with title track, Painkillers, Fallon presented a much more candid, naked version of himself than his audience has previously been exposed to. The show, instead of just being a whistle-stop tour of his latest release, featured material from his side projects, The Horrible Crowes and Molly and the Zombies.
The night’s highlight was easily and by far the haunting Honey Magnolia, made all the merrier by the heavily intoxicated girl standing next to me screaming the entirely wrong lyrics – bless you, you insufferable bastard. The simplicity of the live piano accompaniment contrasted with Fallon’s rough vocal line, giving the song a more soulful sound, a slight divergence from the version featured on the record.
The depth of Fallon’s authenticity was notably stirring in his soaring execution of Steve McQueen, followed immediately by a delightfully American-esque version of Smoke, the latter, with its catchy clap-along melody, falling far from his post-punk roots with Gaslight. Still, Fallon did not disappoint and continued with a number of tracks from his extensive repertoire, including a distinctly emotive performance of The Horrible Crowes’ Behold the Hurricane, taken from the side project’s 2011 release, Elsie.
To say that Fallon is one of those artists who always seem to sound better live would be an understatement – not to trivialise the standout quality of his records by any means, but his mournful rasp and elevated choruses really come into their own when heard in person. The poetry of his lyrics appear so much richer in the flesh, with his sentimentally-regretful tone and ardent guitar playing revealing another layer to his work.
The show concluded with a lively rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World, made all the more poignant due to Fallon’s references earlier in the night regarding his current dissatisfaction with the political situation in the US, “Come to my country in the next four years, kid. I dare you. I double dare you!”
I must clarify that, although I am admittedly at this stage a diehard Brian Fallon enthusiast, I’m not allowing my adoration for the guy to cloud this review. Fallon delivered a genuine, earnest and wittily-heartbreaking performance, interspersed with charming anecdotes and solid guitar solos. If you’re looking for a remarkably perceptive and genuinely gifted musician, look no further.