It’s been a scant four months since New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem announced that they’d played their last shows for the time being and would thus begin a disappointing-yet-not-entirely-unexpected indefinite hiatus. If you’re at all familiar with the occasional stir-crazy, restless nature of the band’s frontman, Brian Fallon, however, you probably assumed you wouldn’t have to wait all that long before his voice would pop up again. Still, four months seems awfully quick…
And yet, here we are, not two full weeks into 2016 and we’re not only on the doorstep of Fallon’s first true solo album, Painkillers, (due out in March 11th on Island Records), but right at the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a fairly lengthy tour in support of his new project, Brian Fallon and The Crowes, an obvious play on the name of the Horrible Crowes side project Fallon started with Gaslight’s guitar tech-turned-touring-guitarist Ian Perkins a few years back. The third night of said tour found itself in the historic Fox Theater (if a 23-year-old theater can be historic, this one is, at least according to the baby-faced bouncer guarding the stage left area. But seriously, though, Frank Sinatra did open the place, so that counts for something…) at Foxwoods Resort Casino in rural Connecticut.
The setting is admittedly a bit of a strange one when compared to the sweaty punk clubs that The Gaslight Anthem cut their early teeth on, or even some of the larger venues the band played in more recent years. To try to paint a brief picture, envision a glorified high school auditorium (cap. 1400), but with pristine sound and lighting and immaculate carpets and movie theater seats. Now envision that false, brick-and-mortar facade of that auditorium exists across the high-end mall hallway from a Fuddruckers burger joint and acres of one-armed bandits flashing and sirening in total sensory overload cacophony, and that’s about what you’ve got. Strange place for a group of on-the-other-side-of-thirty lapsed punkers to convene, but I digress.
From the moment that Fallon and his five-piece band (Perkins on guitar, fellow Gaslighters Alex Rosamilia on keys and guitar, The Scandals‘ Jared Hart primarily on acoustic 12-string, the inimitable Cat Popper on bass, and Wes Kleinknecht on drums) hit the stage and fired up the opening track “Red Lights,” which those of you familiar with Fallon/Popper’s Molly And The Zombies project will no-doubt remember, the evening had a special sort of a feel. At no point in what realistically could have been a marathon of a nineteen-song setlist did showgoers really get the sense that this band had only played two collective shows together in their history.
Fallon’s stage banter was its typical jovial, off-the-cuff self, which helped provide a little levity to a setlist that included, at times, some fairly dark themes, particularly those surrounding lost love. It has become rather taboo in some circles to premier music before an album’s release in this YouTube era, yet Fallon and the gang played all dozen of the tracks slated to appear on Painkillers in bold fashion. The audience, comprised largely of visible (and at times vocal) Gaslight Anthem fans, were noticeably polite and respectful for the duration of the set, eager to grasp the new stories that Fallon had to share. Aside from the lead single, “A Wonderful Life,” the general feeling is a bit mid-tempo, a more layered, at times alt-country bookend to the smokier, blusier The Horrible Crowes Elsie full-length (from which about a half-dozen tracks were performed here). While it obviously remains to be seen what happens to The Gaslight Anthem going forward, fans of Fallon’s songwriting and storytelling have little to fear, as The Crowes are the real deal.
Cory Branan provided direct support on this evening, as he will for the band’s entire first tour out of the chute. Having seen Branan play sweaty basement clubs and backroom bars in the past, this setting had a much different vibe, but one that really highlighted Branan’s role as an artist and a storyteller. Perhaps it was the seated nature of the show, but gone was the occasional need for an acoustic performer to battle to pull in listeners from above the din of the vocally inattentive bar patrons, allowing instead for the humor and wit that pepper Branan’s lyrics (not to mention his criminally-underrated guitar playing) to really shine. He’ll be back in this neck of the woods next month with Chuck Ragan; go see him, damnit!
Check out our full photo gallery from the rather stellar evening below.