(All words by Gina Skidz; all photos by Jay Stone.)
I can’t start a review of anything related to Brian Fallon without the caveat that I am a huge fan of everything he’s done, from Gaslight Anthem to the Horrible Crowes, to his new music, which he plays under the name Brian Fallon and the Crowes. I came into the show with great expectations (yeah, that pun was intended), and left feeling like Fallon has hit his mark, blending soulful Springteen-esque melodies with the Americana imagery that grabbed me in the early Gaslight days.
The show kicked off with opener Jared Hart, who made his name as frontman of New Jersey punk band The Scandals. I’ve seen him play locally a bunch of times, so it was at once gratifying and terrifying to see someone I like so much up on the big stage at Boston’s Royale. Jared did not disappoint, focusing on his new solo album, Past Lives & Pass Lines, and belting out a series of amazing songs. Although he is based in Jersey, he’s a staple of the Boston punk scene, and part of the way through his set, he called out his friends in Boston’s Burning Streets, and some off-the-cuff banter broke up his otherwise focused set. This was the first of two times we’d see Jared that night, as he now backs up Brian Fallon in the Crowes, playing guitar and creating some sweet vocal harmonies. He stood out on his own on stage, but did a hell of a job supporting Fallon as well.
The second opener was Minneapolis indie/folk singer Austin Plaine. Backed by a full band, he brought a country twang to the punk party as he performed songs off of his self-titled debut album. If you want to get a feel for his sound, I think the best song I heard was “Houston,” a narrative-driven, upbeat song in the vein of Kasey Anderson.
The crowd was pretty huge throughout the show, and both openers enjoyed a big crowd up front during their sets, but it seemed like the capacity quadrupled by the time Brian Fallon took the stage. The floor was jammed front to back, and the upper balconies of this former theatre were packed, too.
Fallon kicked off his set on a sad and slow note, with “Last Rites,” an older song that was the intro to his debut album with the Horrible Crowes from back in 2011. I developed a hard music crush on Fallon years ago, thanks in part to his engaging, humble attitude on stage, and this night was no different, as he launched into a story of the real origination of “Elsie,” which actually came from a British comedian’s routine, and joked that this wasn’t the sort of thing he’d ever bother telling Rolling Stone. From there, the set heated up, with the new track “Nobody Wins,” followed by “Go Tell Everybody,” and “Painkillers.” Three songs was about as far as Fallon could go without another story, as he joked about stopping at Newbury Comics and Boston-based t-shirt label Johnny Cupcakes earlier in the day, and being surprised to find neither records nor cupcakes. “Who makes cds these days? Apparently I do,” he bantered, as The Crowes’ Painkillers had just been released that day.
Before playing the creepy/sexy “Sugar,” he confirmed that the song is about being a pervert. Ah, well, still a great song. The set finished up with the new tracks “Honey Magnolia” and “Steve McQueen,” and then Fallon let slip the cryptic and tantalizing fact that they always leave one good song off of each record (so, that means there should be 5 or 6 never-released gems out there at this point, right?!). They then played “Hearts and Daggers,” which he plans to release on Record Store Day.
My only complaint was that Fallon’s set seemed to be rushed, and there was no encore. This was no fault of theirs, however. The venue unfortunately makes most of its money catering to the world of college girls and Eurotrash better known as electronica/EDM nights. So the set ended and the crowd was rushed out, with bouncers even yelling at people who were still in line to buy merch. It’s lame, but that’s how it goes.
Brian Fallon, Jared Hart, and Austin Plaine are still on tour, and you can find the remaining schedule here, and check out the photo gallery below!