Stories. Everybody’s got one. Not everyone can tell it though. Some are master story tellers, others you cringe when you hear “did I tell you about the time…” But when you come across a good story teller, it really is something quite magical. Brian Fallon and Craig Finn fall into the master story teller category. And when I heard they were going on tour together, I knew it would be a magical night.
It was a night of firsts. My first time at the Space at Westbury, which originally opened in the 1920s as a single screen movie theater that was saved from demolition and reopened in 2013 as an all-purpose facility, accommodating all aspects of contemporary entertainment. My first time ever seeing Craig Finn, who is most well-known for fronting the Hold Steady. And my first time seeing Brian Fallon solo. I had seen him before with his band, the Gaslight Anthem, but he has since released two solo albums and equipped with only a guitar and a keyboard, I knew this show would be very different.
Craig Finn took to the stage, wearing a baseball cap and blazer and toting a guitar. The Hold Steady has a reputation for lyrical storytelling but Craig’s stripped down demeanor is something incredible. He talked of his time in Brooklyn, where the Hold Steady was formed, but he was born in Boston and grew up in Minnesota. He talked about what it meant to be punk, and he missed his chance of ever being considered a true punk and performed “Punk is Not a Fair Fight.” He gave back story’s to songs and covered a Hold Steady song “”Magazines.” All in all, he played an 8 song set full of beautiful stories.
Maggie I’ve Been Searching For Our Son / Magazines / Preludes / No Future / Magic Marker / Newmyer’s Roof / Punk is Not a Fair Fight / Be Honest
A certain silence fell over the crowd when Brian Fallon took the stage. You could feel the anticipation building around you. He began the night with “Forget Me Not,” a single off of his most recent solo album Sleepwalkers. The original version is angsty, with a harsh “Stacy, I’d like to take you to a movie” as the opening line, but tonight he crooned. His voice, still a bit torn and raspy, was delicate and relatable as you could hear the crowd softly singing along. This would be the mood the entire night.
He would switch between guitar and keyboard, a one man show in front of a backdrop of silver stars and small town skyline. You felt as if you were in an intimate backyard show. Brian interacted a lot with the audience amongst his stories. There was a young girl, maybe 7, that attended the show with her father and was not just front stage, but sat on the stage for the entire concert. Fallon teasingly asked if she had to go to school the next day as this was a Wednesday night concert. After a quick story and sharing that everything you need to learn in life you can learn on the streets, he signed and lamented that school was important. He acknowledged he was trying hard to watch his mouth all night, as he’s sure there have been young children at his shows before, but to have one sitting front and center was a whole new level.
Before he played “Little Nightmares” he talked about how... “I don’t feel secure and I’m sure most people don’t feel secure… but, with all that said, I think that the commonality that we find is that we all feel that way so there’s some comfort in that." He playfully asked the bartenders if they make good margaritas. Like, top notch Cadillac margaritas. And when they responded yes, he grabbed $20 out of his pocket and asked the crowd who likes margaritas. He would buy two Cadillac margaritas for two people of drinking age – and chuckled as he said people needed to stop streaming music and start buying albums and maybe next time he could buy margaritas for everyone.
The highlight of the night was when he played “National Anthem” from the Gaslight Anthem album Handwritten. He talked about the songs origin and an old guitar he picked up and, after seeing a picture in Rolling Stone of a couple depicting an America he could relate too… “For the first time ever a song just jumped out… it was there, I played it just one time and I had enough sense to hit record before I started playing and I played, I sang. And there were the words, there was the song. And it never happened before or again … And that picture comes into play. I kept thinking what is up with that picture. Why is it bothering me? And I said, oh that looks like people in some sort of state of comfort and also loss. I said, hmm, sounds like a national anthem to me.”
He played a tremendous set, spanning songs from his Gaslight Anthem albums, solo albums and side project Molly and the Zombies. It was an absolute pleasure to hear his stories about life, love and friendship.
Forget Me Not / Painkillers / Red Lights / My Name is the Night (Color Me Black) / She Loves You / Little Nightmares / Neptune / Great Expectations / Smoke / A Wonderful Life / National Anthem / Handwritten / Steve McQueen / Rosemary / Etta James