BWW Reviews: Brian Gallagher Rocks Birdland with Poise and Power
To celebrate the release of his debut solo album All That's Ahead (read my review here), Brian Gallagher performed an intimate set in Birdland's ongoing Broadway at Birdland concert series on Monday, April 27. Joined by Megan Hilty, he and his robustly talented band brought music from the album to dazzling life. With exuberance and a down-to-earth, geeky charm, Gallagher truly rocked the packed-to-capacity audience.
Gallagher's All That's Ahead is a quintessential example of the current state of the American singer-songwriter. His concert, like the album, was infused heavily with blues modalities, giving his rock music a soulful and earthy timbre. With gravel and grit in his voice, aggressive chord progressions that stir the soul, a skilled band, and magnificent back-up vocals offered from Hilty, Gallagher's music resonated through Birdland with power and poise.
He kicked off the show with an invigorating and driving performance of "Ghosts," which featured an impressive guitar solo played by Celisse Henderson. On "Turbulence," Gallagher showed effective vulnerability by utilizing soft vocals and letting the song grow to its charismatic and soulful choruses. My favorite track form the album, "Walking" saw Gallagher showing tangible vulnerability through breathy, staccato phrasing. On her parts, Hilty brought life to the song with sultry vocals. His performance of "Screaming" was raw and evocative, and his head bobs and weaves let the audience truly sense how his music moves through him. Gallagher and Hilty sang happier and more up-beat songs when performing the vibrant and cheerful "The Future Song" and "Chase the Sun." Yet, the most impressive aspect of the evening was the entrancing solo melody pouring from Gallagher's guitar on "Lie." Music rushed out of his instrument like water flowing over a waterfall, creating something that was sublimely beautiful.
As if his vocal and guitar talents weren't enough to win the audience over, Gallagher's charismatic banter between numbers showcased a humble personality. He emphasized that couldn't believe he was celebrating his album release with a room full of people. He also joked with the audience as if we were all his best friends, and his interactions with his band were hysterical. Lastly, his adoration for Hilty was heartwarming as well.
The musicianship of the band for the concert was so good it was surreal. Matt Cusson on piano (and some guitar), Rob Rokicki on guitar (and some piano, some melodica, some xylophone), Tyler Francavilla on bass, Henderson on guitar and ukulele, Ryan Hoagland on drums, and Hilty on additional vocals added layers of robust texture and authenticity to the show. Whether blowing the audience away with skillful solos or ensuring that Gallagher's music was nuanced and conveyed the complexities necessary for the emotional punches it packs, the assembled band shone brightly.
Gallagher released All That's Ahead on January 22, 2015. The album can be purchased from iTunes, CDbaby, and Amazon. For more information about Brian Gallagher and his upcoming performances, please visit http://briangallagheronline.com.