The trajectory of Brian Fallon’s career suggests that he’s never been fully content. A decade of fronting The Gaslight Anthem, who announced their hiatus last year, was peppered with side projects in which he struggled to alleviate the pains of a Jersey-bred punk. After years of searching for fulfillment, it makes sense that Fallon decided to carve his own path. Going solo seemed to give him a shot of adrenaline; his latest single is the uplifted “A Wonderful Life”, a far cry from the brokenhearted ballads on his last record with Gaslight.
The track comes from his new album Painkillers. It’s hard to call it a solo release when his backing band is larger than the one he recently put on the back burner, but practically speaking, this is his autonomous debut. Painkillers isn’t Fallon’s magnum opus, but it is sincere, and fans of his narrative style will not be disappointed. The album is out now but the songs were still unfamiliar when he brought them to the Electric Factory last week under the banner of Brian Fallon and the Crowes.
At the show, new tracks were met with curious nods, and the ones from Fallon’s past set off cheers and stomps. A good chunk of the setlist came from The Horrible Crowes record Elsie, a collaboration of Fallon and guitarist Ian Perkins, who was part of the band that night. There were no Gaslight Anthem cuts, but the familiar themes were present: the sting of lost love, nighttime driving, and letters to characters with names like Lily, Maryann, and Honey Magnolia.
Fallon holds the ability to sing simultaneously with rage and with grace, and here we heard all sides of him. He hollered out “Go Tell Everybody” and cooed through “Steve McQueen”, showcasing Americana influences that were only hinted at on old releases. “Nobody Wins” spelled out his personal reinvention with the line “I lost most of myself pleasing everyone / I had to learn how to begin again”. He paid tribute to the songwriters that came before him with a snippet of Tom Petty during “Ladykiller” and a cover of Bruce Springsteen, to whom he’s been compared ad nauseam.
Between songs, Fallon joked with his band and went on tangents about Ellen Degeneres and shopping for bathrobes at Sears. He was grateful that the crowd was attentive despite the lack of alt-radio hits and rowdy punk anthems. The smile on his face felt like a quiet “thank you” for the chance to sharpen his craft in an altered context. There’s still a possibility that Gaslight will reconvene, but for now, Brian Fallon is content with forging his own way.
1. Last Rites
2. Red Lights
3. Nobody Wins
4. Go Tell Everybody
8. Honey Magnolia
9. Steve McQueen
10. Atlantic City (Bruce Springsteen cover)
11. A Wonderful Life
15. Mary Ann
17. Behold The Hurricane
Words & Photos by Sara Patrick