LIVE: Brian Fallon & The Howling Weather @ KOKO, London

By Sean Littlewood

Brian Fallon has been cutting a new path since the hiatus of his beloved vehicle The Gaslight Anthem. If his former celebrated the ballsy blue-collar rock and roll Fallon grew up on in New Jersey, his recent delve into something more fragile and soulful has offered a more heartfelt insight behind the skin of a prolific songwriter. One with enough cool to be held up as ‘the next Springsteen’ in almost every other breath in the mainstream.

“You’re half mine” he quips to a KOKO crowd bursting at capacity. “I met a lady and we just love to read and watch television and eat ice cream. We’re not gonna’ judge each other if we gain a few pounds.” Fallon’s effortless New Jersey cool seems to follow him wherever he goes, but tonights set is certainly a bold one. The twenty strong setlist offering just a single number from the Gaslight songbook, a beautifully intricate version of ‘The 59 Sound’ played solo by Fallon on piano.

Of the other 19, there’s one or two other covers that are sure to have pleasantly surprised a few. A breezy, rolling rendition of The Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She Drives Me Crazy’ marks the midpoint of a set that combines the perfect balance of ferocious rock and roll and laid-back ease that Fallon seems to manage with every song he performs. The biggest surprise however comes in the form of a bouncing cover of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ with Dave House filling in as the perfect replacement for the Edge and offering some sublime guitar and backing vocals.

The rest of Fallon’s set is the perfect journey through the tracks that have shaped his career away from The Gaslight Anthem. Typically falling heavy on his newest record, this years ‘Sleepwalkers’, he cuts through each and every song that spans both solo records, and a few Horrible Crowe’s numbers for good measure, with tender, biting precision. In the moments between songs Fallon has such a way with the crowd, telling stories of encounters with his hero Springsteen (or “the boss”), that it feels like a Friday night spent having a drink and a singalong with a remarkably talented old friend.

His ‘Sleepwalkers’ material offers a perfect contrast to some of the more delicate songs from 2016’s ‘Painkillers’. When the songs ‘Among Other Foolish Things’ and ‘Watson’ from each record respectively close the bands initial set, before Brian reappears behind the piano for an encore of ‘The 59 Sound’, it’s impossible not to get caught by what an incredibly consistent, stirring songwriter Fallon is.  ‘Sink Or Swim’ first appeared out of nowhere in 2007, and tonight goes to show that the tag of ‘the next Springsteen’ might not have been be too far off.