Brian Fallon, alongside The Horrible Crowes, ‘lost his mind in the middle of Toronto’ in front of a sold-out Opera House of passionate fans on Sunday night. Though, while on stage, he vowed to never tell the story of how he found himself going crazy in the middle of our fair city, Fallon still delivered an astounding performance. If you were one of the many fans who waited in that seemingly endless line that stretch around the block to see this New Jersey rocker, you surely weren’t disappointed with the outcome.
Prior to Fallon’s arrival on stage, two excellent supporting acts warmed up the crowd with some great performances. Jared Hart, who also hailed from New Jersey, was a suitable opener for Brian Fallon, as he shared a similar sound. His rich, growling vocals and ear-pleasing folk tunes caught and held most of the crowds attention early in the night. What topped off his set were two great covers of ‘Gates’ by The Menzingers and ‘Forever Young’ by the great Bob Dylan.
Following Hart was Austin Plaine, who came from Minnesota, but brought a very southern country vibe with him. His 3-piece band got the audience’s feet tapping along to his ballads about love and heartbreak that would feel well suited to a road trip. His final, and most well-know song of the night, ‘Never Come Back Again’, seemed to be the crowd favorite.
At last, the only performer left to play was Brian Fallon. The Opera House was now packed to its limit, as the sea of flannel shirts and Gaslight Anthem merch shuffled eagerly in anticipation. “Are you ready to have your mind blown?” Said the enthusiastic stranger next to me. Having never seen Brian Fallon live before, I didn’t really know what to expect, but any doubts I might’ve had were washed away not long after Fallon and The Crowes took the stage.
Their set began on a sombre note not, with the gorgeous opener from their album Elsie, Last Rites. Just as i could start to see tears welling up in everyone’s eyes, he kicked it up a notch, transitioning into the more upbeat Red Lights. As he hit the last chord of the song, he took a moment to smile, look out onto the roaring crowd, and crack a few jokes before getting back to the set.
He did those things a lot that night, there were few moments when I didn’t see a genuine smile on his face. Many musicians may love to tour and perform, but Brian Fallon showed it the most. He also did a fair bit of talking and interacting with the crowd. Topics such as Michael Jordan’s moustache, relationship advice, and Canadian maple syrup were joked about, receiving mixed reactions from the crowd. Personally, I thought it was hilarious and refreshing to see an artist on stage who was interested in more than just playing the setlist and leaving, but a few heckling fans may have felt otherwise. These jeers only made the night more entertaining, as Fallon was well-equipped with snappy comebacks and wasn’t afraid to roast particularly obnoxious individuals, if circumstance called for it.
As for the music, I couldn’t have asked for a better selection of songs from his discography. Throughout the 17-song setlist, there was a pretty even number of songs played from his work with The Horrible Crowes, as there was from his very recent solo release, Painkillers. What I loved was how seamlessly the music of these two projects blended together in a live setting; My favorite song off of Elsie, Sugar, was perfectly paired with Honey Magnolia as a follow-up. A huge highlight of the setlist was a full-band cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’. Fallon’s love for The Boss is obvious, and seeing him pay tribute to his New Jersey roots was downright heartwarming.
The set finished off with what is quite possibly one of the best songs Brian Fallon has written, ‘Behold The Hurricane’. It was an emotional end to say the least, and I don’t think anyone in that venue wanted to see him leave. The crowd chanted for one more song, but the concert was over, and our minds were sufficiently blown. If there was one thing that I took away from that show, it’s that if you don’t know Brian Fallon’s work outside of The Gaslight Anthem, you are sorely missing out on a wealth of incredible music, and some killer live performances.
– Liam Brand