ASBURY PARK – There’s something magical about witnessing a true auteur of the times delve deep into a catalogue of adored compositions, spreading wide-eyed awe through a flooded music venue, like the most sensory satisfying contagion, by stripping those selections down to their most raw acoustic guitar-led formulations.
And on Saturday evening The Gaslight Anthem’s own Brian Fallon cast such a crowd-bewitching spell, transporting a Press Room patronage back in time to the poster-plastered, Red Bank, NJ bedroom in which the songsmith first penned his tales of neighborhood queens and outlaw cowboy bands.
Sure there were differences. Photographs of the penman’s inspirations, The Bouncing Souls, Joe Strummer, and Pearl Jam, among others, were replaced by classic Danny Clinch prints of Iggy Pop and Bruce Springsteen. Dim lighting cast by a bedside lamp was substituted for stage illumination that caked the soulful Punk in red, white, and blue fluorescence. And rather than finding peace in solitude, Fallon discovered it through moments of astonished calm and stillness that fell over the assemblage during “The Navesink Banks,” and crowd-wide sing-alongs on such tunes as “Blue Jeans And White T-Shirts” with 150 of his closest friends, fans, and family.
“I just bet her [a woman in the front row] five dollars this show wouldn’t go so well,” announced Fallon to his seated sisters and brethren, breaking the stern anticipation of his set with a joke. “She’s got five saying it’ll go pretty good. If I get any more takers, we might be going to The Sizzler tonight.”
Commencing with “Great Expectations,” the opening salvo from the New Brunswick-based outfit’s 2008 breakthrough full-length, The ’59 Sound, Fallon strummed through a subdued rendition of this normally accelerated ode to Mary, the sleeves of his blue and white flannel rolled up revealing the inked appendages that constructed the tune so many years ago.
“When this was proposed to me,” explained Fallon of the Red Bull Music Academy-presented event, “it was supposed to be an interview and then a couple of songs. But that just doesn’t seem right. You all sacrificed your Saturday to night to come down here and spend it with me, and I really appreciate that. So I think I’ll play nine or 10 songs.”
He followed suit with the lead single and title track from The Gaslight Anthem’s 2010 LP American Slang, tapping his steel toed foot along to the beat, accompanied by a sea of bobbing heads bouncing in unison, synched up to the same cadence.
“This acoustic stuff is a little tricky tonight,” expressed Fallon. “They bring you up here all hopped up on Red Bull and then want you to play acoustic songs, so, bear with me.”
Staying with him was no task at all for it’s intimate performances such as this, away from the grandiosity of sold out arenas and festival circuit stops, where artists feel comfortable enough to truly reveal themselves, shedding the persona of the mysterious song writer to have a relationship with the audience.
“That’s what makes evenings of this nature so special…and that bond was on full display during such cuts as “Miles Davis & The Cool,” “Old White Lincoln,” and “Boxer,” as Fallon looked up from his throne trading smiles with the court after crooning favorite lines of lyrical poetry together, and even more subtle moments of emotion with old friends who sat in the shaded wings of the venue, tapping upon their hearts with an open palm, professing their love and appreciation of this axe toting maestro, not for his acknowledgement from the gilded Press Room platform, but for the body of work he’s produced over the past seven years, preserving their lives with musical snapshots of the good times and the bad for as long as records are spun. It’s proof they were here, the closest they’ll ever come to immortality, and it’s played out on a nightly basis all over the world upon Brian Fallon’s fret board.
“>And there’s more to come. After strolling through fan favorite “The ’59 Sound,” the front-man discussed The Gaslight Anthem’s recent retreat to Nashville, TN where the band finished recording its fourth full-length effort that, according to Fallon, “will be out before it gets cold. You’ll hear it before the leaves change.”
Fallon rounded out his set with the piece of love-lost balladry that is “Here’s Looking At You, Kid,” a fitting end to an evening full of memoirs and ghost stories of times since passed, and promises of more to come.
Stay tuned for Red Bull’s exclusive footage of Fallon’s hour-long interview with local journalist Jon Coen and his nine-song performance.
1. Great Expectations
2. American Slang
3. Old White Lincoln
4. The Navesink Banks
5. Miles Davis & The Cool
7. Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
8. The ’59 Sound
9. Here’s Looking At You, Kid