(Photo by Jeff Crespi)
Friends and family, we meet again. If you are an avid reader of the Radar, you know I always have ongoing support for New Jersey’s own Brian Fallon. I had the pleasure of reviewing one of his holidays show from Crossroads in Garwood, New Jersey, this past December, and I am honored to sit here again in front of my computer to put my thoughts onto paper.
Brian Fallon & The Crowes recently headlined Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on a warm and perfect night; Saturday, March 12, to be exact. I was very excited to market this show as an avid concertgoer and Gaslight Anthem supporter; they have never headlined that venue in their career. So, to see Brian up on that stage brought a huge smile to my face. Some may say it looked as if I had a hanger in my mouth due to all of the excitement. Whenever they come to town, I reunite with so many familiar faces, some that I know, and some that I just recognize, all there for the same reason: real music. Anyway, that being said, allow me to take you back in time a few weeks to that very moment—Brian Fallon’s album release party at Starland Ballroom. Brian’s new album, Painkillers, was released the day before the show; therefore, many fans purchased tickets without knowing exactly what to expect from this show.
First, I have to touch upon one of my favorite people, Jared Hart, who opened the show at Starland. You may all know Jared as the frontman of punk band The Scandals, but this time around he was playing double-duty on tour with Brian. He opened the show to a packed house (literally, everyone got there early and it was perfect), playing songs from his new record, Past Lives & Pass Lines. If you haven’t picked up this record, I highly suggest you do. Jared has a great way with the crowd; he knows his audience, and has them in the palm of his hand. Although I am certain this was one of the biggest crowds he has ever faced alone on that stage, it must have been very rewarding knowing that it was at “home.” Plain and simple, the man straight-up killed it; with raw, effortless talent, I think Jared won over a lot of hearts that night.
Next, Austin Plaine hit the stage. I am still getting on board that train, but I really enjoyed his performance. He has somewhat of a Southern twang that I felt brought a great element to this tour. The crowd seemed really into him as well. After his set, I immediately purchased his record; keep an eye out for this guy.
Now, onto the main event, Brian Fallon And The Crowes (when I say main event, don’t worry, jock jams wasn’t blaring over the PA, although that would have just been the icing on the cake). Around 9:30 p.m., they hit the stage to screaming and chanting from a sold-out house. The energy and excitement was enormous, and I could barely move in my own house (it’s a great feeling). Once I found a spot that I could focus, I didn’t move for over an hour.
The setlist was perfection, throwing in some Horrible Crowes, and songs from Painkillers. Hey, if Brian was ever worried fans wouldn’t know his songs, that couldn’t be further from the truth; people knew every word for an album that had been out for only 24 hours, and that is pretty rad. The night kicked off with one of my favorite songs from The Horrible Crowes, “Last Rights.” It was very cool to hear that song live, as I love spinning it on vinyl. It was a perfect way to set the tone for the night.
With tiny breaks of addressing the crowd, I have said it before and I will say it again: Brian always has the crowd in the palm of his hand. He has mastered the art of owning an audience, and it’s something that many bands have yet to figure out. That being said, let us continue with the music. He continued on playing some crowd favorites such as “Go Tell Everybody,” “Sugar,” and “Lady Killer,” followed by two of my favorites off of Painkillers, “Honey Magnolia” and “Steve McQueen.” I find his new record to be plain perfection; maybe it’s because Butch Walker was involved, or maybe Brian is in a new headspace, but whatever the combination is, it’s deadly. Let me offer a word of comfort to those fearing that this record will be too big of a departure: you needn’t fear. I honestly feel this was a great move for Mr. Fallon, as he is showing a whole new side of emotion and lyrics, as he would say, from heart, to limb, to pen.
Now, to my surprise and to the crowd’s enjoyment, Brian hollered, “You all better sing along to this one,” perfecting Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” I took a look around the room at that moment to see friends high-fiving, hair swaying, and just pure and utter joy from everyone in that crowd. He picked the perfect song to cover, really reminding us that we were all home, in Brian’s home: New Jersey.
The night continued on and finished off in complete perfection, with album single “A Wonderful Life” (an incredible song with incredible meaning), “Smoke,” “Rosemary,” and an old favorite, “Crush.” Not naming every song he strung, I thought the setlist was executed perfectly, hitting fans with a nice blend of familiar and new songs.
Overall, I had an incredible night watching Brian Fallon make his headlining debut at my home, Starland Ballroom. Painkillers is a great record, which I highly recommend you all add to your collection. It’s fresh, innovative, and in true Brian Fallon fashion, brilliant. Cheers to Jared, Austin, Brian and the boys for an amazing evening that left Sayreville yearning for more. Thanks for the memories, and although the call was out for lonely hearts, I feel we all left a little more loved that night.
Until next week, my friends, keep on sending in your stuff; I need to be occupied!