No painting you in a song: Johnny Gallagher at Rockwood.

Up until the fall of 2008, I had only been to New York City twice in my entire life. I'm not one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to see John Gallagher Jr. in his Tony-winning role of Moritz in Spring Awakening. I never got to see an Old Springs Pike show live, nor had I ever been to a small music venue such as Ars Nova or Joe's Pub.

In fact, the first time I ever saw Mr. Gallagher perform live was just six short months ago, when I bought a ticket to the third preview performance of American Idiot. And I really hope that these caveats don't detract from what I'm about to say about him as a performer, and a person. Because I'm not simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Mr. Gallagher's solo songwriting has stunned me ever since the first time I came across a video of his song "Constance," which is still in my top five favorites of his today. From there, I moved on to "Nothing Gold" and "Brittle Bones," "Everybody Loves You" and "Oblivious Blues." And of course, "That Time You Fell." (Those of you who follow me on Twitter will see the connection there.) I can remember sitting on my family's old computer in our basement and listening to these songs over, and over, and over, completely entranced by the honesty of his lyrics and the sound of his guitar.

As time went on and more songs were written, the awesome, awesome people who always seem to be present to film Mr. Gallagher's shows and upload them to YouTube allowed me to follow his career from a distance. When I finally made the move to college, I was closer to New York, but still seemingly eons away from turning 21, the coveted age at which I'd be allowed to enter the venues Mr. Gallagher frequently books for his shows.

But after three years' worth of YouTube videos, I turned 21 two weeks ago, and walked into Rockwood Music Hall last Sunday night for my first live show. Because the night's lineup seemed to be running very behind, Mr. Gallagher, accompanied by Thad DeBrock, didn't take the stage until well after his 11:00pm time slot, and I'm forever in debt to my wonderful, wonderful roommate, who couldn't even get into Rockwood but agreed to hang out outside until the show was over. I can't ever thank you enough, Sarah!

I'm not even sure how to describe the show, which lasted for just over an hour, except to say that it was everything I'd imagined for so long. After having the chance to randomly meet Mr. Gallagher twice in the past few months, I'm even more in awe of his kindness, his humble nature, his talent, and the incredible amount of himself that he infuses into everything he does. Anyone who is only familiar with his performance as Johnny in American Idiot will be floored by the range and vulnerability he offers in his original solo material, which consists of over 40 compositions. I've never seen a performer with as much honesty and frankness about life contained in his songs. They're the kind that go well with a rainy day, a cup of tea, and nothing but time to sit and listen and think. (Read: the best kind.)
I may have insufficient breath
For the words I've got inside my head
If they run out then we can kiss instead
- "The Buried Boy"
And it's tough, so incredibly tough
When you give and it's never enough
When you shiver 'cause you can't stomach the stuff
And you live too close to the cusp
I'm just trying as hard as I can to be what my gut might call a good man
If you have any questions, if you don't understand
Ask me like a person, I'll be happy to answer them
- "Close to the Cusp"

'Cause they say that the truth hurts
And we'll do everything that we can
Not to feel its light
Shine on us so bright
We've got to stay so blissfully unaware
Just to show we don't care
And I know now that you don't
You're too proud
You're too loud
You're too scared
- "Proud, Loud and Scared"

I need a longer fuse
And I need to slow down and choose
Which suit fits me better
Do I keep it all together
Or let loose?
- "Longer Fuse, Stronger Dam"

'Cause I'm crawling up through the dirt
Through the roots, through the wood, through the hurt
That I have bestowed on my friends and the girl of my dreams
I've been caught and crushed and uncleaned
Since I let 'em go
But I'm rising from the grave, rising to be saved
Rising so I can slave away all my debt
Dead for a year
- "Dead For a Year"
In all honesty, I couldn't possibly pick a single favorite song from the night. I could have stood there and listened for hours. A personal highlight was "The Buried Boy," as well as the final two songs of his set, "No Scorn" and "Still Sixteen," simply because I adore the way the former song slides into the latter, as well as a vivid time in my life that all three remind me of. The night also resulted in "Proud, Loud and Scared" being played on repeat this week.

Some fantastic pictures from the night can be found here, courtesy of TheRockNRollPictureShow. And a compilation of Mr. Gallagher's lyrics, courtesy of an anonymous blogger on Tumblr, can be found here.

If you're not familiar with Mr. Gallagher's solo career, I implore you to give some of these songs a listen. They will give you reason to reflect on your life, make your heart ache, lift your spirit, and cleanse your soul. To quote Almost Famous (please, PLEASE tell me you've seen it):
"But what it all comes down to is that thing. The indefinable thing when people catch something in your music."
And Mr. Gallagher, and his music, definitely have "that thing."


Jaime said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog. It's well-written your enthusiasm for music and the stage shines through! It made me so happy to read that you were able to see John live after finally turning 21! YAY!

Anonymous said...

That's very kind of you :) It's always wonderful to hear that people enjoy our blog. Thanks for reading!

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