Sitting behind the piano at stage-front of the 9:30 Club, Brian Fallon teases the crowd with a few strains of “The ‘59 Sound,” The Gaslight Anthem’s signature, tune. Musing about his musical influences while tapping on the ivories, he has hushed the crowd. We are all securely in the palm of his hand.
“IIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” erupts a woman’s nasal scream, shattering the mood.
Interrupted mid-sentence, Fallon points to his chest replies, “No, I am Brian.” Pointing at the other half of The Horrible Crowes across the stage, he says, “That is Ian.”
“IIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!” she screams again.
“Lady,” Fallon scolds, with not just a hint of exasperation. A smirk, and he launches into the sound full bore, drowning out the woman to the relief of others who had indeed come to see him.
Fallon’s playfulness with audiences is well known. Admonishing the audience never to dare him on Twitter, he started his most recent DC concert on April 28 with a rousing cover of the “Sultans of Swing,” a Dire Straits signature.
While Fallon is a significant song-smith in his own right, often compared to The Boss, he is very attentive to his place in the larger arc of the rock pantheon. He pays tribute to those influences in his choice of covers. His most recent show included selections from Derek and the Dominos (“Bell Bottom Blues”), Tom Waits (“Downtown Train”) and Molly and The Zombies (“Smoke”).
His duet with Caitlin Rose, lead singer of the opening act of the same name, was perhaps the highlight of the recent DC show. Sharing a single mike, the two sang, Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Here, Fallon’s baritone blended with Rose’s soprano. The duet imbued this classic with a beauty of its own. The choice divided his audience distinctly in two. Those over 30 sang along full bore, while the 20 somethings struggled to place the lyrics.
It is these covers that really demonstrate Fallon’s versatility as a performer. One minute, growling like Waits, the next his voice soars over Ian’s guitar in “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven,” the Crows own anthem from their most recent album, “Sleepwalkers.” Seated solo at the piano, he is the classic confessional singer-songwriter. With his guitar and his ensemble behind him, he is as ferocious a rocker as any in today’s indie-pop.
Fallon arrives this weekend in DC with his old crew from The Gaslight Anthem to reprise their classic 2008 record of that same name. Tweet him at @TheBrianFallon. The result may surprise you.