Latin Grammys 2018

Broadway Star Johnny Gallagher Brings Sonic Storm to NYC After Debut LP Release: Live Review

Johnny Gallagher
Courtesy Photo

From taking the lead in Green Day’s American Idiot musical to his electric role in Duncan Sheik’s Broadway smash Spring Awakening, Johnny Gallagher (a.k.a. Tony winner John Gallagher Jr.) has always been a lightening bolt to behold. Following the recent release of his debut LP Six Day Hurricane, Gallagher took the Rockwood Music Hall stage last night (Jan. 18) with a boisterous backing band, comfortable between-song banter and a delightfully eclectic set list. Making many self-deprecating jokes about how long it’s taken him to put out a solo album, Gallagher’s performance was clearly the whirlwind fans had been waiting for. However, in such a snug space, some calm would have done the storm well.

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This clearly wasn’t Gallagher’s first rodeo; aside from eight-show weeks on the Great White Way, Gallagher has been gigging since 2006 and is a frequenter of the Rockwood Music Hall. (Six Day Hurricane was produced on the venue’s label, Rockwood Music Hall Recordings.) Though a few Broadway buds dotted the audience -- Rebecca Naomi Jones of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Tony-winning director Michael Mayer, to name a few -- John Gallagher Jr. made way for Johnny Gallagher last night.

More Springsteen than Sondheim, Gallagher appeared right at home with his bright green guitar in hand, powering through hard rock numbers like “One Flower Short” and giving Bob Dylan sonic salutes with “Dead For a Year.” Be it a ballad strum or hard rock shred, both came naturally to Gallagher as he palled around with his band and fed off (and fueled) the audience’s energy. A lyric in “Dangerous Strangers” shouts out to an “inanimate best friend,” and this is clearly his Gibson Les Paul (which he’s had since age 16).

Another lyric in that same song says “someone gives you a gift, learn how to use it.” Not uncommon for folksy rockers like Gallagher, some of the lyrics were lost when instrumental volume or rushed vocal delivery trumped diction in the performance. What will please fans acquainted with Johnny Gallagher, and pleasantly surprise newcomers, is his remarkable aptitude for creating lyrics. Gallagher has an extensive song catalog, the majority of which is not featured on Six Day Hurricane (although that nine-song set is still very strong).

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“By the time the moment arrived to record this album, I had like 50 some songs to choose from,” he told Billboard before the concert. “We picked nine and went for it. It felt a little bit as if we threw some darts at the wall and recorded the songs that we hit.”

Very fortunately, Gallagher treated fans to favorites like “Jane's House” and “You Don't Know It Yet But You're Mine,” the latter of which seasoned fans were amped to sing along to. Thankfully, the night was not a bland regurgitation of the new album’s tracks and boasted welcome set list spice. However, lines like “critters ‘round my crib, but the feeling of doom is not like being at your wedding and not being the groom” tell stories that should not be powered through vocally.

There were dynamite moments when Gallagher let the opening lines of “Why Oh Why Am I This Way” and “You Don't Know It Yet But You're Mine” float softly over the audience for a beat. While Gallagher successfully played his album release night like a rock n’ roll heavy hitter, a few more moments of pure vocal clarity would have made for a perfect evening.     

Set List:

Imagine If

Two Fists Full

Bessie I Don't Blame You

Lost Love

Sarasota Someone

Dead For a Year

Jane's House

One Flower Short

Why Oh Why Am I This Way Why?

Dangerous Strangers

Give Em Hell Kid

You Don't Know It Yet But You're Mine

Those Wild Woods