Friday, January 15
This was a weird one–a sold-out Bowery Ballroom full of steroidally pumped up Jersey dudes singing gently along to Gaslight Anthem and Kelly Clarkson covers, then breaking into spectacular fights as Fallon rambled between songs. There’s no Brian Fallon solo record, no Brian Fallon solo songs even: it’s all Gaslight stuff, minus the rest of the band, and with a few leftfield and not-so-leftfield (Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” say) covers thrown in for variety. Like another covers-happy Jersey guy, Ted Leo, Fallon pretty much makes any song he plays his own, whether Tegan and Sarah or the Screaming Trees. (He also seems to manage the Gaslight songs he plays solo without much trouble; wonder how the rest of band feels about that fact.) The contrast between the longshoreman-capped mega-sensitive-and-shy evening’s entertainment and his howling crowd makes for some touch-and-go moments: J-E-T-S, JETS JETS JETS chants, anyone? Let’s just say this was not a show at which I’d feel comfortable spilling another man’s beer.
“’59 Sound” et al resemble nothing so much as the communal moments at Christian rock concerts, the devoted faithful joining in on Fallon’s secular hymns–a lovely thing, if not for the veiled menace surrounding questions like whether or not it’s gay to wholeheartedly sing along with another man. Judging by some of the particularly unprintable chatter the Bowery hosted on Friday, opinions differed. Even Fallon indulged, making fun of himself at one point for having Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift on the ol’ iPod. In another year or so, one guesses he’ll be done apologizing for that sort of thing.
In the meantime, some facts. Fallon’s Scent of a Woman-era Al Pacino impression is not very good. His Joy Behar is a bit better. The Southern accent on the radio memorialized on “High Lonesome” turns out to belong to Tom Petty; the “Maria came from Nashville” bit on the chorus of the same song has something to do with the Counting Crows, but as in so many other of Fallon’s truly marathon asides, it was hard to figure out exactly what. And though the Gaslight frontman will spend the evening playing anthems ranging from the Pogues to “Miles Davis & the Cool,” the crowd’s absolute favorite moment will be the youth crew gang backup vox from “We Came to Dance.” As in, Fallon: “You ain’t never seen a two step…” Massively frustrated/entranced crowd: “TWO STEP.” Here’s to giving the people what they want, but only sometimes.