The Growlers vocalist and frontman Brooks Nielsen brought his solo band to Asbury Park, NJ Thursday night for a show at the revamped Asbury Lanes. The singer/entertainer/magician mainly worked through his new solo material with a few Growlers tunes sprinkled in for good measure. Brooks was dressed like a Peaky Blinder on acid wearing a red overcoat, a kipper tie, and a mischievous smirk under his mustachio.
Nielsen was accompanied on stage by five other musicians including a drummer, bassist, keyboardist, and two guitarists. Unlike the cut-and-dry approach of The Growlers, this band was not afraid to open up and jam around Brooks’s edgy vocals, exchanging solos and connecting songs with off-the-cuff riffs.
Brooks and his band opened the show with “Virgin Lady Luck” from his recently released solo album One Match Left before diving into his old band’s archives with “Long Hot Night” and “Night Ride” from 2019’s Natural Affair and 2016’s City Club, respectively. After performing his latest single “This Old World Was Always Broken”, they moved back into The Growlers’ catalog for “Love Test” and fan-favorite “One Million Lovers” with Brooks’s “Sham Rock Rock” in between the familiar tunes.
Pushing his new material, Brooks worked through a jam-heavy “Lo Siento”, “How Do You Like It So Far (This Life)?”, and “Chords”. The latter featured a lengthy piano introduction before getting down to the meat and potatoes of the song. Slide guitar accompanied a synthesizer for a rendition of “Open Up (For Clizz)” to bookend the cluster of new songs.
The newly formed band really started to click during “Problems III”, a banger from 2018’s Casual Acquaintances that romanticizes late nights fueled by “cigs and cheap red wine.” Old-school fans rejoiced and high-fived as the band dug up “Empty Bones” off The Growlers’ debut album, 2009’s Are You In or Out?
Winding down the lengthy set, Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” bled into the stark analysis of urban life “City of Cheer” before the instantly recognizable introduction of “City Club” had the crowd singing along and moving to the upbeat melody. Closing out the set, Brooks & Co. performed “Natural Affair” from The Growlers’ last full-length album of the same name.
Returning to stage to raucous applause, Brooks’s six-piece band centered the encore around his newest songs. After a run through The Stranglers‘ instrumental “Waltzinblack”, a lyrically dense “Déjà vu (Icons & Fools)” dropped into “Rock and Roll with All of You” to end the show.
Following a stop at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooks Nielsen heads north to Cambridge, MA tonight for a show at The Sinclair—no relation—before shipping up to Canada for two nights in Montreal and Toronto on September 25th and 27th, respectably. For the full tour breakdown, click here.
I definitely would recommend catching this act for a taste of something at once fresh and familiar. Brooks Nielsen is an entertainer who claims the spotlight despite the high-octane, upbeat rock and roll of his new cast of musicians. There’s a reason why The Growlers became a nationwide sensation with their own style and genre, dubbed “Beach Goth.” Mixing clubby synthesized melodies, pop rock, and dirty vocals reminiscent of cigarette butts smoldering in ashtrays on the felt of tilted pool tables awash in the glow of flickering neon signs, the band’s songs paint pictures of late nights with strangers in a brotherhood of bad decisions, creating a lifetime of memories as unintended consequences of youthful curiosity and mind-altering substances and experiences—all bound by music and the will to live fast. Hop on and don’t forget to hold on. “You know you’re living / when it all becomes a blur!”
Setlist: Brooks Nielsen | One Match Left Tour | Asbury Lanes | Asbury Park, NJ | 9/22/22
Set: Virgin Lady Luck, Long Hot Night, Night Ride, This Old World Was Always Broken, Love Test, Sham Rock Rock, One Million Lovers, Lo Siento, How Do You Like It So Far (This Life)?, Chords, Open Up (For Clizz), Problems III, Empty Bones, Walk On By (Dionne Warwick), City of Cheer, City Club, Natural Affair
Encore: Waltzinblack, Déjà vu (Icons & Fools), Rock and Roll with All of You