Review: Brian Fallon brings his new album, and his charm, to KOKO

Alongside a stellar support from Dave Hause and his brother Tim, this evening will not soon be forgotten. 

Coinciding with the release of his second solo record Sleepwalkers, Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon headed back to the UK for a run of sold out shows across the country, including a spectacular gig at London’s KOKO. And to make a promising night even better, Fallon brought along Philly rocker Dave Hause – a match made in gig heaven.

Dave Hause has been a busy, busy bee since the release of Bury My In Philly early last year: besides his own UK headline tour last spring, he also toured with Frank Iero & The Patience on their UK run in November and now he is back with old buddy Brian Fallon. And what a wonderful combination it is. Without his backing band The Mermaid, Dave’s set is more stripped back and raw than ever. The piano version of We Could Be Kings gives the crowd goosebumps, and the beautiful Tom Petty cover only shines an even brighter light on the incredible talent the two Hause brothers bring with them.

If you’ve never seen Brian Fallon live, here’s a few things you should know: It’s not your average gig. There’s a lot of talking (by Brian, not the audience) – it’s essentially a mix of ridiculously good live music and ridiculously funny anecdotes and stories. Lastly, if you know the words, you sing along. And if you don’t know the words you sing along anyway.

Kicking off the set with his first solo single Wonderful Life, which really gets the crowd into a dancing mood immediately. Followed by equally catchy Rosemary and Forget Me Not, the evening’s tone is set. And even though the lyrics of his new album are more on morbid side of things, often focused on romance after death, the melodies are happy and layed around killer hooks. Especially on the new record, the New Jersey singer-songwriter makes use of his unique talent to write tracks so catchy you’d swear you’ve heard it before and lyrics so hauntingly beautiful they’ll make you want to fall in love if you aren’t already.

Amongst the cheerful atmosphere, Fallon doesn’t forget to tell us stories about meeting his wife, living with fellow band mate Ian Perkins and wondering what he gets now that he’s married a British girl. “What do I get? A passport?” he asks and is being greeted with various answers from the audience. “Do I get a letter in the mail from Peppa Pig? Does the queen come to my house? Are you half mine now?” he adds with a smile as a huge collective cheer erupts. “I feel like you are, we’re family now!” Fallon concludes. And we agree.

There’s even something in store for the old school Horrible Crowes fans. Fallon’s 2011 first side project Elsie with the Horrible Crowes is a dark and melancholic record that feels wonderfully emo, so hearing tracks like Sugar and Crush live again is always a treat.

And as the first chords of Etta James echo through the North London venue you can almost hear the whole crowd sighing in anticipation. The song had quickly become a fan favorite after the release of Sleepwalkers and to hear it live, with 1,400 people singing their hearts out to its gorgeous chorus, is probably one of the best things to happen to live music this year.

On his last tour, Brian Fallon had abandoned encores and claimed he’d rather spend the time playing an extra song (no argument there). But on this tour he seemed to have changed his mind – a little bit. “I’ll go off stage, and I’ll wait over there for a few second and then I’ll come back. Just for the theatrics.” he explains. Bring on the theatrics then, who ever complained about those?!

And it’s an encore that truly, truly deserves a separate standing to the rest of the set. After Watson, off Fallon’s latest release, he takes to the piano and plays us the most aw-inducing, fascinating rendition of The Gaslight Anthem’s The ’59 Sound, taking the whole room back to when most of them first fell in love with Brian’s songwriting and getting us even more excited about the band’s tenth anniversary tour this summer.

And as if we weren’t on enough of a high from this show, Brian Fallon and The Howling Weather send us off into the night with a cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found (What I’m Looking For) with the help of Dave Hause on vocals and Tim Hause on the piano.

So if you ever find yourself in a position to catch Dave Hause or Brian Fallon at a show, promise me you’ll do. It will be one of the best things you’ll see when it comes to live music. 

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