Two Gallants @ The Fillmore

Two Gallants returned to The Fillmore last Saturday night for the first time since December 2008, marking a beautiful and emotional triumph following the band’s slow ascent out of the ashes left by their first six years, three studio records, and early nonstop touring. Playing for nearly two hours before a sold-out hometown crowd at the legendary San Francisco auditorium, band members Adam Stephens and Tyson Vogel appeared completely in sync and at ease, filling the room with their raucous brand of folk rock, thanking their families, friends, and fans for their continued support, and even joking with the crowd about the then-upcoming Super Bowl.

Kicking things off with a dirty, ripping cover of bluesman Blind Willie McTell‘s “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” (which appeared as a bonus track on their most recent effort, 2012’s The Bloom & the Blight), Stephens and Vogel hinted that the evening would not be chock full of hits from their early days as the premier folk rock bards in the City by the Bay (although they wouldn’t totally deprive the audience of throwback tracks). Instead, the show would feature a sampling of songs covering Two Gallants’ decade-long history (with the band playing tracks off each of their four studio albums), although the focus was certainly on The Bloom & the Blight, which they’ve been touring in support of since its release last summer.

Nearly half of the main set consisted of tracks off that latest album, including “My Love Won’t Wait”, “Winter’s Youth”, “Ride Away”, “Cradle Pyre”, and “Halcyon Days”. “Broken Eyes” was particularly stunning to witness, with Stephens on an upright piano, Vogel taking over guitar duties, and the duo joining forces for some soaring harmonies throughout the Southern-fried track’s chorus. The remainder of the set was sprinkled with songs off 2006’s What The Toll Tells (“The Prodigal Son”, “Las Cruces Jail”, and “Steady Rollin'”, which featured a great audience singalong) and their 2007 self-titled LP (“Despite What You’ve Been Told”, “The Hand That Held Me Down”), plus they broke out a new, yet-to-be-titled track with Stephens once again tickling the ivories. Before they broke into that new jam, Stephens noted how difficult it would be to play, because not only was it brand new, but the piano’s positioning prevented the two from seeing each other (so visual cues went by the wayside). Needless to say, they nailed it, just like they did on every other song that night.

Set closer “Halcyon Days” was a moment of catharsis for both the band and their audience. The track consumed the crowd, a dizzying dose of searing guitars from Stephens and the usually thunderous work of Vogel behind the drum kit, before Vogel stood high above the crowd, leading his fans in a unified hand clap that descended into screams and cheers amid Stephens’ ethereal guitar interlude when the drummer himself descended into the crowd for an extended crowd surfing session. The Fillmore audience returned him to the stage in time for the song’s dramatic and heavy conclusion.

Abruptly walking off stage following “Halcyon Days” with little more than a “thank you all all very much” from Stephens, Two Gallants returned after a few short minutes of deafening foot stomping and chants from the crowd, ready to punctuate the evening with a three-song encore that was the perfect denouement to a beautiful night. Starting off with the gentle “Waves of Grain” (off What The Toll Tells), they moved onto The Bloom & the Blight‘s “Song of Songs”, before capping the night off with a rousing rendition of “Nothing To You” – the set’s only song from the band’s 2004 debut The Throes.

With the clock about to strike one, Stephens and Vogel briefly soaked in the adulation of the masses at the corner of Fillmore and Geary, and then slinked off backstage, leaving the audience spent and wanting more, but left with nothing but the remnants of an adrenaline-soaked night, the house lights, and thoughts of apples and gig posters.

Experimental indie folk stalwarts Akron/Family and up-and-coming San Francisco quartet Future Twin opened the night. The latter started things off with a powerful set of their self-described “punkadelic farmageddon moongayz” sound, including the excellent “Getting Theoretical” (one of my favorite tracks of 2012), drawing in some new fans in the gathering crowd with its raw emotion and singer Jean Jeanie’s dark, yet so often uplifting voice. Akron/Family followed with an unfortunately unbalanced set of angular and stunted tracks, including a handful off their forthcoming record Sub Verses (out April 30 on Dead Oceans/Family Tree). The band’s latest work bears little semblance to the moving experimental sounds, rock grooves, and harmonies that originally drew many (including your reviewer) to the band in their heyday.

Check out a full slate of photos from Saturday night’s show at The Fillmore, along with Two Gallants’ complete setlist, below.

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Setlist: Two Gallants at The Fillmore (February 2, 2013)
“Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues”
“My Love Won’t Wait”
“Despite What You’ve Been Told”
“Winter’s Youth”
“The Hand That Held Me Down”
“Steady Rollin'”
“Ride Away”
“The Prodigal Son”
“Las Cruces Jail”
“Broken Eyes”
“Cradle Pyre”
“Halcyon Days”
“Waves of Grain”
“Song of Songs”
“Nothing To You”