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A black suit, black shirt, and trademark hipster glasses adorn the lone guitarist taking the spotlight centre stage. Commanding the attention of more than a thousand people — including Scotty Mac, lead singer of Toe to Toe — with just an acoustic guitar and a stool is no mean feat. Yet Chris Farren, a handsome long haired country music singer (think Johnny Depp meets Orlando Bloom) and frontman of Florida’s Fake Problems, rises to the task of warming the crowd for The Gaslight Anthem.
His sometimes lilting, often rusty, but always clear and perfectly tuned voice traverses an unfamiliar country/folk catalogue. Yet from the upbeat calypso of Eagle Eyes to the somewhat cheesy but beautiful malady Ghost to Coast, his set generates a sense of romance which seems to permeate the crowd.
Before long Farren’s stool is replaced by four guitars and a drum kit bathed in red light. At precisely 8:30pm the stage explodes with The Gaslight Anthem and The 59 Sound. Brian Fallon smiles, unleashing his trademark New Jersey vocals to a crowd of hardcore fans lapping up the wistful, uptempo rock.
The lights turn from red to green, and purple to blue, as the delighted crowd bop, mosh and sway to Blue Dahlia, Handwritten, and Old White Lincoln.
Towards the end of latter, Alex Levine’s bass line goes haywire, and the rest of the band, bar Fallon, slow their music to a stop. The two attempt to resolve their clashing melodies, but before long the bright lights come on and both stop playing altogether.
One of the band members mutters at hecklers to “f**k off” whilst Fallon teases Levine, assuring him there’s “always tomorrow night”.
Much to the crowd’s delight, The Gaslight Anthem then jokingly launches into a half-hearted attempt at Rick Springfield’s Jesse’s Girl. But the music abruptly halts once more, at which point Fallon speaks to the audience for the first time, lamenting how the symbolism of the American diners they write about is lost on Australian audiences.
After a brief foray into Dire Straits and another failed attempt at Jesse’s Girl, Gaslight launches seamlessly into 1000 Years. The effortless transition leaves the titillated crowd assured the whole breakdown was just part of the band’s lovable shtick.
Next, the slower pace of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, accompanied with Fallon’s earnest crooning of working class lyrics, gives The Tivoli the intimate feel of a pub gig – couples join hands as the theatre sings along.
The quiet moment is soon forgotten, though, as drummer Benny Horowitz picks up the pace with High Lonesome. Touring member Ian Perkins shows his own vocal prowess in Mulholland Drive before Fallon channels Pearl Jam with Too Much Blood.
Fallon ignores screams for American Slang all night, but stops the show to chat to Matt, a man in the crowd who announces he’s attending every concert on the Australian tour. Impressed, Fallon not only gives him an autograph, but invites him on stage (to sing, if he can).
Issuing a disclaimer about hearing loss, he pulls an unperturbed Matt on stage, who dances — beer in hand — happily alongside the band for the duration of Howl.
Spirit of Jazz, Mae, Meet Me by the Rivers Edge, and 1930 follow, all delivered with a polished precision. During Songs for Teenagers, Fallon endears himself to all present yet again, this time inviting Chris Farren back to the stage for a soulful duet featuring soft drums, slide guitar and gentle heartfelt vocals.
Red Violins, Blue Jeans and White T-shirts and We’re Getting A Divorce follow before The Gaslight Anthem finishes with a phenomenal rendition of The Backseat. There is no encore, but after a stunning 2 hour set, can you blame them?
Image: Brian Fallon Of The Gaslight Anthem Performs Live @ The Tivoli, Brisbane / Photo: Bec Reid