April 11, 2016
St. Pancras Old Church
Fans of The Gaslight Anthem are used to surprises. The band’s indefinite hiatus was announced mid-tour last summer; their London concert became their penultimate show. And what a show it was! Singer Brian Fallon’s solo tour was announced out-of-the blue, too, before we’d had a chance to hear how the solo album (produced by phenomenal singer-songwriter Butch Walker) would sound. As Fallon acknowledged at his recent London concert, this meant the sold-out crowd had bought tickets on faith. Fittingly, then, when an extra London show was added, it was booked for a church.
Church shows take no prisoners; there’s no hiding behind fancy sound systems or flashy light displays. Unlike the KOKO show where Fallon was backed up by a full band, this was very much a solo show. It was simply Fallon on a gothic throne, illuminated by two table lamps, with just an electro-acoustic guitar and a row of harmonicas for accompaniment.
Fortunately, the fan-only concept seemed to have worked; the church was packed with people who have travelled from across Europe and queued in all weathers to see The Gaslight Anthem for years. They were best able to appreciate the work that Fallon had clearly put in to preparing for this special show.
Influences from consummate performers like Counting Crows, Butch Walker and Jason Isbell were apparent. Fallon captivated the crowd right from the first song, the aptly named I Believe Jesus Brought Us Together. Throughout, Fallon performed tender songs and stories with earnest passion, and the banter between songs was idiosyncratic and endearing. He took worthwhile risks, rearranging songs such as A Wonderful Life and Painkillers to suit the space. As Fallon stretched his vocal range, his voice soared to the rafters and crackled with emotion.
He acknowledged that he had taken fingerpicking tips from Isbell and this showed, especially during the show’s standout track; a sensitive cover of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, complete with beautiful guitar work.
Many an artist would be daunted by the gothic setting and stripped down acoustics of St. Pancras Old Church. Yet The Scandals’ Jared Hart shone bright in the low light, his gruff vocals tinged with lightness.
The venue’s clarity of sound foregrounded Hart’s lyrics; confessional and earnest, with a deft nod to The Goo Goo Dolls at one point. Highlights included Heads or Tails and The Guillotine.