Brian Fallon and Dave Hause: February 23, 2017 – KOKO, London
“Holy shit, London, we’re doing this!”
With Dave Hause, you know exactly what you’re going to get. The show will open with the simultaneously confrontational and uplifting track With You (“I want the next 30 minutes to feel like a fucking crime”). That’ll the cue for the crowd to go wild and the set will be an unrelenting riot of electric licks, flailing limbs and lungs screaming along to every damn word.
So when Dave and his exquisitely cheekboned brother Tim Hause quietly strolled on to KOKO’s stage, something didn’t seem quite right. For one thing, the guitar looked suspiciously electro-acoustic. Bold choice!
There was nowhere to hide with a stripped-down set in front of a 1,400 capacity crowd. With a killer double-header line-up, this show sold out in a matter of hours and expectations were high. Dave chuckled when he spotted just how high: “oh shit, there’s people all the way up there!” With a grin he muttered “rattle yer jewellery” to those packed to the rafters on the fourth tier. Nice try at the accent, but it came out a little more Scottish than Scouse! He can be forgiven for that since Edinburgh had recently warmed him up for the London crowd.
What followed was a masterclass in live music. It was a privilege to be there, let alone to document it then watch the entire set from the photo pit. Dave was on top form vocally and the venue’s clear sound showcased the quality of his lyrics too.
Short but very sweet
With three albums of material and only 40 minutes to play with, he wisely let the music do the talking. Still, a few choice comments and substituted lyrics, together with his infectious grin, communicated that Dave’s in a really good place right now, both personally and professionally. To be fair, getting clean, getting married, and getting to tour the world with your talented younger brother would tend to put a positive spin on things.
Speaking of Tim, his sweet backing vocals left us wanting more. Other than that he was supremely focused, switching silently and effortlessly between keyboard, electro-acoustic guitar, electric guitar and mandolin, which he’d apparently only started learning the week before.
As for the all too short set? Dave promised to be back with Tim and the rest of the band, The Mermaid. The crowd started braying when he admitted there would be a bit of a wait for that due to stateside commitments. “I prefer touring the UK and Germany,” he confided. A little controversial for an American boy? Well, if the barbed lyrics of Dirty Fucker weren’t enough indication that he’s no ‘my country, right or wrong’ hardliner, it could be that the European fans have simple earned their rightful place of prominence.
The KOKO show was a case in point. The acoustic ambience didn’t diminish the UK crowd’s willingness to sing along to every damn word. A casual observer would be surprised to discover that the Hauses were not the night’s headliners.
Another aspect that remained from Dave’s customary live set was his desire to get amongst the crowd. He resisted, but only just, repeatedly returning to the edge of the stage to appreciate and acknowledge the crowd. It seemed like the solution was obvious for the next trip – a searing Tim/Dave acoustic slot followed by a full-on full-band electric Hause extravaganza!
The intensity of support for the support act meant that the pair didn’t need to throw in a cover to hold the crowd’s attention. They did it anyway to pay tribute to a musical hero, Tom Petty. I Won’t Back Down was, in Dave’s words, hymnal and featured an epic guitar solo from Tim.
Still, all the love was there for Dave’s original tracks. It’s hard to pick highlights from such a standout performance but credit must go to the incomparable anthem C’mon Kid, the reflective version of We Could Be Kings, and the closing song – the usual opener – With You. With a quick lyrical switch (“I want the last three minutes to feel like a fucking crime”), Dave topped off an exquisite set that truly set the standard.
“What do I get? Does the Queen come to my house” Do I get a letter in the mail from Peppa Pig?”
Shellshocked by the unexpectedly different but undeniably incredible performance from Dave Hause, it seemed clear that no-one could top that. For about 15 minutes that was, until Brian Fallon bounded on stage. After all, he’s been leading the charge in honest, earnest, all-in rock for over a decade.
A Wonderful Life was an inspired choice to open the show. This joyous, uncompromising debut single introduced him as a solo artist and slayed a few personal demons for good measure.
It couldn’t have been clearer that Brian, like Dave, is in a great place right now. Being newly married clearly agrees with him, too. Brian couldn’t resist waxing lyrical about his bride in her hometown, confirming what British references on his record had strongly hinted at.
So that’s how he ended up asking the crowd “are you half mine?” before answering his own question: “we’re family now!” Wondering out loud what he’d get out of this partnership, he didn’t dwell on the obvious – a visa then citizenship. Worth a thought, Brian. We have proper football, not the ‘boring’ kind.
It’s important to understand just how integral Brian’s banter is to his live performance. Whether that’s jokingly inviting himself to stay with an audience member (“a month? Indefinitely? My dog’s house trained – he goes all over the house”). Or imagining his mum calling him out for a fight (“You wanna take it outside?!? Eat your Cheerios.”). Or simply demonstrating how to make sitting down at a piano look cool.
In the past, there was a sense that the stream of consciousness style chatter reflected nervousness. Now, holding the crowd with irrepressible energy and sharp wit, the banter was almost as entertaining as the music. Brian could have a career in stand-up comedy if he ever needs a fallback option.
Sometimes the chat was illuminating, as when he described receiving a call from Bruce Springsteen offering him free tickets to Springsteen on Broadway. The story was delivered with exaggerated actions and panache. Still, you could see the New Jersey boy who couldn’t quite believe that The Boss knew who he was, let alone contacted him out of the blue.
Brian was clearly awed at having sold out the show on the day of release, and he knew the support he received was something special. The fans were thrilled to witness a special version of The ’59 Sound on piano, but they weren’t there expecting solo versions of The Gaslight Anthem songs. Every single song was met with cheering, singing and utter delight.
Brian gave back with an intense performance, giving everything in every song. Ladykiller and Crush from his side-project duo The Horrible Crowes (a duo with Ian Perkins, who was also on stage at KOKO as a guitarist in The Howling Weather) were particularly well-received. A country shuffle addition to Smoke was also popular.
Even the newest songs from Brian’s latest solo album, released only two weeks before, were greeted like old friends, particularly If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven, Etta James and Watson. For extra credit, Brian mashed up the album’s title track, Sleepwalkers, with a partial cover of She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals. One final cover version was perfect to round out the night as Brian Fallon and Dave Hause plus Tim Hause joined forces for a faithful cover of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
Here’s our review of Dave Hause’s album, Bury Me in Philly.
Sleepwalkers by Brian Fallon is out now. You can buy it on CD or double vinyl.