Perhaps expectations of something in-between Bruce Springsteen on Broadway and a Tom Waits interview were too lofty for Brian Fallon’s first foray into an entirely solo tour. The former Gaslight Anthem frontman travelled light, alternating between acoustic guitar and piano, for a string of shows billed as “An Evening With”.
Fallon meandered through an opening forty-five minutes at Dublin’s Academy with more hot takes than Blindboy Boatclub’s podcast could shake a stick at. The construction of a bridge between Britain and Ireland, the existence of blonde haired Italians with blue eyes and the threat children face from predators in online video games probably weren’t topics most fans thought would feature as the “banter” between songs, but Fallon waded through them with varying degrees of tact.
Luckily, our host is hugely engaging, witty and charmingly funny. At one point he wonders out loud if he should just book a talking tour. A creative mind unleashed from the shackles of having to front a band, but still unsure of the boundaries. Just when it feels like his stream of consciousness is getting off track, Fallon reels away from the edge with a joke and a grin. He keeps things moving, but almost half of the set feels more like chat interrupted by music than anything else. Anyone expecting stories about barbecues with the Springsteen's or explainers and stories behind songs will have been roundly disappointed, but still, we see a side of Fallon rarely revealed.
Music from his solo albums, Sleepwalkers and Painkillers features heavily in the evening’s set, but we’re also treated to early Gaslight Anthem tracks Wherefore Art Thou Elvis and Navesink Banks. The simplicity of Fallon’s older songs allow them to shine and it would have been nice to hear a few more from the Gaslight Anthem/Horrible Crowes era. The heavily produced and more upbeat songs from Sleepwalkers particularly don’t translate as well to the setting but Forget Me Not and the album’s title track are still well received.
Armed only with the guitar, it seems Fallon compensates for the stripped back arrangement by over complicating the songs. Complex picking patterns in Steve McQueen make a soft track feel rushed and unsteady, drowning its nuances in a struggle to hit the right strings at the right time. Rosemary and the evening’s finale, Smoke, both strummed rather than picked provoke enthusiastic singalong from the crowd and feel more like what everyone came to see.
It seems Fallon is keen to focus on newer material rather than linger or rely on his back catalogue. He can be forgiven for doing so, and with such a fluid and changeable setlist it’s hard to please everyone every night of the tour. However, the absence of tracks like the hugely popular Gaslight Anthem song The 59 Sound, leaves the set feeling incomplete. Smoke is an upbeat finale but lacks the impact of Fallon’s solo piano rendition of The 59 Sound played on the Sleepwalkers tour. The success of that must have gone some way to encouraging the format for this tour, so to leave it out seems an opportunity missed.
Much like the 59 Sound reunion tour show at Vicar Street in 2018, it’s the song choice and set structure rather than Fallon’s actual performance which falls short. Having a band in tow might hinder Fallon’s on stage spontaneity, and in this format, we get to see the glint in his eye as a plan for mischief forms. What it lacks though is the structure and depth of something an audience might expect from An Evening With…