A solo appearance at the Usher Hall would be a daunting prospect for any artist and two such souls broke away from leading their bands to grace the grand old stage last week.
Brian Fallon, best known as frontman of Gaslight Anthem, with support from Craig Finn of The Hold Steady fame, had arrived in town for the Edinburgh leg of the Songs From The Hymnal tour and both had warm words of praise for the venue and the city.
Minnesota-born Finn is a man at ease with his music. Having released six albums with his band, and with fourth solo album I Need A New War out on April 2, his impressive output has deservedly won him a loyal following.
On stage Finn’s songs come as a package. The anecdotes spilled out, providing each tune with a personal wrapper which added to the already poignant lyrics. Before he launched into Newmyer’s Roof, we heard of his experience of 9/11 and his belief, that despite the worst times, something better will come.
A huge cheer went up as Finn mentioned Edinburgh band The Exploited in the introduction to Punk Is Not A Fair Fight. It was a nice touch and later he talked about the sad loss of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison.
This was a good night for Craig Finn, the audience warmly appreciating a funny and engaging performance from a master artist.
Brian Fallon is another storyteller who makes a live performance what it should be – an unique event. From the opening National Anthem he had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he regaled them with tales of the tour and picked up on audience shout-outs with great humour.
The set was a potent mix from his various projects – there was Red Lights from Molly and the Zombies, and rousing versions of Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang and Smoke.
Armed only with guitar and piano Fallon’s New Jersey growl grew as the evening proceeded. His gravel vocals were the perfect compliment to the stripped-[back renditions of his old classics such as Goodnight Irene.
The Usher Hall was well and truly tamed by two of America’s finest songwriters and storytellers.
Words: Alan Hotchkiss