Monday evening was a cold one to say the least. Luckily, Johnny Gallagher’s record release show at Rockwood Music Hall was absolutely worth changing out of my sweatpants and leaving the house for. He first took the stage as the drummer for the opening band, Lakes, and continued his evening as the star of the show. The sold out hall was totally packed, and everyone was ready for Johnny to give us a great show.
Johnny opened up his set solo on stage with his electric guitar. His natural charisma worked completely to his advantage as he captivated the audience with “Imagine If” from his debut album, Six Day Hurricane. With his guitar, he held down a driving quarter note bass line, which backed the entire tune, as he began to play a beautifully open and hopeful sounding melody over it. His vocals were smooth from the get-go, and the lyrics were rather introspective. He has a way about him on stage; maybe that has something to do with his acting experience on Broadway, but nonetheless, he is exciting to watch.
Next, his full band joined him on stage, where they would stay for the rest of the show. They played “Two Fists Full,” which allowed Johnny to show his bluesy side. Continuing with the blues vibe, the band went on to play the opening track from Six Day Hurricane, “Bessie I Don’t Blame You.” This song is classic blues in so many ways, but Johnny truly gives it a fresh kick – one that is quite unexpected and quite fun. There’s a cool attitude involved with old school blues and Johnny manages to keep that alive, while remaining relevant and intriguing. The crowd was excited since he first came on stage, but by this time, there was a new level of energy in the room, and that’s thanks to “Bessie I Don’t Blame You.”
Johnny and the band went on to play several of the tracks from Six Day Hurricane, as well as some of his other songs. Johnny’s personality continued to come through in his comical words between songs. Standout songs included “Sarasota Someone,” which was lovely, and “Dead For A Year,” which has very catchy and rhythmic lyrics. He sings, “all these things I could be, you will see,” which was very heartfelt. Johnny has a means of writing songs where both the instrumental and vocal melodies are very rhythmic, and that seems to work very well for the talented vocalist and guitarist.
“Jane’s House” was a clear standout from the evening. Before beginning the song, Johnny dedicated the track to anyone who has ever moved, as in from one home to another. After a few of the slower and more somber tunes, this one brought the fire right back into the set, and it felt good to have that tight full band sound permeating the walls of Rockwood Music Hall once again. The energy was high, and the crowd was only getting more excited as the evening continued. “One Flower Short” kept the energy up as well. He ended the show with the album closer, “These Wild Woods,” which featured some great harmonies in the chorus. Just like the energy in the room, the song constantly continued to build. There was a great moment where the music got quiet and slightly more ambient. The band really emphasized every note they played, pushing the crowd into a wonderfully captivating atmosphere, where it didn’t need to be loud or demanding, yet it demanded your attention anyway. Then, Johnny yelled, “bring it on home,” as the band brought the energy back to close out the show to thunderous applause and cheers from the audience. Johnny certainly puts on an exciting and entertaining show, and although he makes jokes about how long it took to put out an album, it was definitely worth the wait.
Article: Alex Feigin
Photos: Lesley Keller