Brian Fallon puts on unforgettable show at Heights Theater
(Photo: Thomas Joseph)
Brian Fallon hit all the beats in his show at Houston's Heights Theater on Thursday night. With a career-spanning setlist, Fallon sent the crowd at the intimate venue home happy.
The set opened with three crowd pleasers. Fallon first went to fan favorite "Rosemary. "Forget Me Not" and "If Your Prayers Don't Get to Heaven," singles from his new record Sleepwalkers, followed. All three are lively tracks that get the people going, from the straightforward rock on "Rosemary" to the soul influences on the latter.
It set Fallon up for the night with the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Fallon peppered in a few songs from a past project called The Horrible Crowes. Fallon put out Elsie, the lone Horrible Crowes record, with long-time friend Ian Perkins in 2011. Perkins contributed to guitar work on Fallon's latest solo record and joins him on this tour as part of his backing band, The Howling Weather.
The arrangements on these songs are still layered and understated, and Fallon's voice shines. He took a few songs to get warmed up, but by the time the band rolled into "Sugar" he was ready. The harried desperation as he says, "I got hurried for midnight/ slippers of glass and perfect fits," is heartbreaking.
(Photo: Thomas Joseph)
The Heights Theater provided Fallon a better platform than his last stop in Houston. He co-headlined a Fall 2016 tour with Ryan Bingham. While the show was solid, Bayou Music Center was a little too airy for both artists. The tighter confines at The Heights Theater - especially the lower ceiling and lived in nature of the historic space - make for a tighter connection between artist and audience.
Fallon leaned on that throughout the night, engaging in his brand of stage banter. It's gregarious and witty and a little biting, but it's also insightful. The trick to wearing denim-on-denim? Don't match it too hard. You don't get that kind of advice at many rock shows. That intimacy also afforded him the leeway to play a few tunes on the keyboard, including a fitting rendition of "Cold Cold Ground" by Tom Waits.
A jaunty arrangement of "Painkillers" came next, and the tuning allowed the band to roll right into "My Name Is Night (Color Me Black)."
Fallon wound down the show with another string of fan favorites.
"Smoke" might be the best song he's ever written, a catchy and universally relatable track about love dying by a million cuts. Live, it turns into a rousing singalong, with concertgoers putting their arms around each other and beers in the air.
There was one last treat for long time Fallon fans. Since The Gaslight Anthem went on hiatus in 2015, he's made a concerted effort to spotlight his other projects. However, on this tour he's put together a somber, solo piano arrangement of "Great Expectations." Just like "Smoke," it's a bit of a singalong, and a trip down memory lane for anyone who's followed his career.
Fallon closed the set alone on stage, just a guitar and "See You On The Other Side." The album closer on Sleepwalkers, it's as tender and warm as a song about dying gets.
Support came from Nashville-based country artist Ruston Kelly. He's on every one of those '10 country artists to watch for' lists for a reason. His songwriting has an honesty and an edge that critics like to tell you is lacking from modern country. Kelly's closer, "Asshole," is a near stream-of-consciousness telling of his recent experience getting arrested and having his wife - fellow country artist Kacey Musgraves - pick him up. It's very matter of fact without being too folksy or clever.
If you want to find solid country music, go to a Brian Fallon show. The opener on that 2016 tour with Ryan Bingham was Paul Cauthen, the East Texas-based artist on a lot of those same lists.
"Forget Me Not"
"If Your Prayers Don't Get To Heaven"
"Come Wander With Me" "Sugar" (orig. The Horrible Crowes) "Cold Cold Ground" (Tom Waits cover)
"My Name Is the Night (Color Me Black)"
"I Witnessed A Crime" (orig. The Horrible Crowes) "A Wonderful Life" "Among Other Foolish Things" "Smoke" "Etta James" "Behold The Hurricane" (orig. The Horrible Crowes) "Great Expectations" (Piano arrangement; orig. The Gaslight Anthem) "See You On The Other Side"