Opening numbers are tricky. That first song sets the impressions, the energy, and the tone for the whole night; bands can be made or broken by them. It was curious then for the familiar pleasing chords and melodies of another artist’s song—the Counting Crows’s “Accidentally In Love”—to be the first things heard from the Peter Fanone Band. However, it became clear shortly into the song that Fanone had set his agenda well, as that song perfectly captured the early comers, including this critic, and helped set the honest, reminiscence tinged-tone for the course of the 90 minute show.
The six-piece, bar band rockers bring a lot of influences to the table, A little Dropkick Murphys, a little Counting Crows, a dash of Darius Rucker, a pinch of Paul Simon, but a lot of Fanone. Fanone invokes classic archetypes of the Ango-American singer tradition; there is as much Irish pub troubadour in him as there is Bruce Springsteen. Fanone’s invocation of Celtic Thunder’s “Galway Girl” highlighted the near-ubiquitous folk-edge to his rock n roll; and this worked quite well. The Peter Fanone Band’s delicate blending of specific folk influences into the music prevented the tunes from slipping into the familiar, mind-numbing territory of most “college rock”. Fanones original tunes often brought his signature mix of nostalgic reminiscence and stalwart defiance and hope. Songs like “Prisoner” and “Santa Maria” showed Fanone’s clear lyrical talent and philosophical reflection—his potential to be a true artist—while clear crowd favorites such as “Friends for Now” and “Darkness of the Night” showed Fanone’s vulnerability and introspection.
The show, in many ways, flowed as a journey through Fanone’s musical and emotional history as expressed through the expertly mixed selection of originals and covers. From the opening, sweet, naïveté of “Accidentally In Love” to the closing, electrifying maturity of “Mr. Brightside” there was a real sense of expedition and transformation through the night. It was remarkable to see how Fanone was able to assert himself, nearly always, artistically over the distinguished cover songs and artists he invoked that night, as well as the strength of his original tunes. Whether by force of presence and personality or the tweaked arrangements—though probably a little of both—the Peter Fanone Band was able to avoid the often unnecessary sonic regurgitation that happens with so many cover tunes. While he floundered a bit on Sam Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One”—less Fanone’s fault and more due to the uniqueness of Sam Smith’s timbre and phrasing—he brought out the subtle cadences and true devilish nature of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and brought out an emotional rawness from Coldplay’s “The Scientist.”
The night was not without its faults. The mix was a bit wild, with the guitar tending to drown out the other instruments around it. The Guitar melodies could be aptly and subliminally complimenting, especially on numbers like “Darkness of the Night.” But this was not always the case, and even when it was there was still some lost expression due to the often muddy tone of Matt Paras’s guitar. This often was a disservice to the more folk elements that Fanone attempts to blend into the rock formulas. There were also a number of lost opportunities to explore the untapped potentials of the multi-talented band. For example, the times when Fanone’s “oooh-ed” melodies synchronized note for note with Asha Tanki’s violin were an unfair tease of what true harmonic possibilities lie within this group. On that note, bassist/backup vocalist Taylor Rasmussen needs more opportunities. Her voice complimented Fanone’s eerily well, especially on their raucous cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” hinting at the real fun they could have with further harmonic development.
For a bar band they’re pretty great, but the multi-talented Peter Fanone band can offer so much more than that. With a little more time and a little more lyrical pushing from Fanone, Georgetown will have a real barn burner on their hands.