To discovering an artist on the basis of a recommendation of a dear friend to immensely looking forward to the gig itself in less than a month is an immense feat. However, that’s the power Brian Fallon possessed with his new album Sleepwalkers. Having only heard his name and The Gaslight Anthem’s in passing, that was my first foray into his world and as a friend mentioned before the gig “I’d have thought his stuff would be a bit tame for you”.
Well, yes, it is. But quality of the music overrides that and to spend an evening with Fallon, his band and friends in my favourite venue was a night not to be missed. Having watched Dave Hause play a short intimate acoustic performance in Glasgow’s Hug and Pint, it was over to the ABC to watch him play to an almost capacity crowd with his brother Tim. Armed only with an acoustic guitar, keyboard and a mandolin (which Tim reportedly learned to play in a week before the tour), it was a great way to set the mood for the evening.
It’s a solid performance from the pair with their heartfelt songs but the highlight of their brief set comes with a dedication to Tom Petty with “Won’t Back Down”. Having played in Glasgow many times before, their love for the town is real, rhyming off venues and joking about not wanting to get into the politics of which is better. As the brothers play material from their shared careers, it enraptures the audience with genuine applause and given there’s movement after they leave the stage, it’d be fair to say a good number of people were there just for the support.
Brian Fallon shuffles onstage with his band The Howling Weather and looks a fairly unassuming figure but with his guitar strapped to him and teasing the crowd with “A Wonderful Life” and “Rosemary” from Painkillers, he’s magnetic whilst belting out his heartfelt lyrics. Then, an intro starts which has become incredibly familiar in the last few weeks and the scream of “Stacy!” between my friend and I kicks off “Forget Me Not”. It’s a more subdued version than that found on the album and once it’s finished, Fallon finally greets the crowd and for the entire night when he’s chatting at length, his tangents and ad-libs show he’s not saying the same thing night after night. He portrays a man at peace with himself, having made jokes about The Beastie Boys (and later on, Morrissey), he slips in “Sabotage” at the end of “Ladykiller”; he’s a man having fun.
There’s Molly and The Zombies material with “Red Lights” and “Smoke” alongside “Crush” and “Sugar” from The Horrible Crowes. Those, together with the Painkillers material and a good chunk from Sleepwalkers like “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven”, “Come Wander With Me”, “Etta James”, the title track and the live debut of “Watson” bring the main show to its conclusion. The balance of folk, indie and heartland rock is riveting and Fallon’s got an impressive band with him, leading them through material and playing off them. There’s a loose yet professional approach and they are able to take the deviation of “Sabotage” in their stride.
Having joked earlier about the concept of an encore, Fallon leaves with his band, only to return instantly on his own and takes his place at his keyboard. What follows is a stripped-back version of “The ’59 Sound” – only fitting since Fallon and The Gaslight Anthem return in July to play that album in its entirety. Judging by the reaction of the room, as an outsider to Fallon and his world – it’s a special moment for many people and at a point, it even sends shiver through me.
Fallon grabs his guitar and again, solo, gives a wonderful rendition of “See You on the Other Side”. It’s a fitting end to the night with it being the last song of Sleepwalkers and with its juxtaposition following “The ’59 Sound”, it’s like a “See you soon with something completely different”. However, he’s joined with the band for one final song along with the Hause brothers for a jam on U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. Regardless of your opinion on the band, it’s a song you can’t help but sing along with. It’s loose but well-rehearsed and just emanates with the idea of friends all having fun. Grins all around from myself and friends, I may not have known much of the material but the class shown from Fallon and his band show you don’t have to in order to enjoy yourself.
Images with kind permission TravellingSimon Photography