It’s always good to see Ron Gallo take the stage in his hometown, and when it’s in front of a full house at World Cafe Live for a post-Thanksgiving edition of XPN’s Free at Noon concert, all the better.

An artist we’ve watched since his old band Toy Soldiers was a blues-driven garagey two-piece, Gallo is many things — a rocker, a jazzer, a psychedelic head spinner, a sage lyricist who plays prankster but has the best hopes for humanity at heart. All of this was on display during his 40-minute set, which showcased his recent LP Peacemeal but also dove deep into its predecessors, Stardust Birthday Party and Heavy Meta.

Dating back to 2017, the opening “Poor Traits of the Artist” was a blistering rocker that reflected on the creative process with raw honesty; from there, it was a block of Peacemeal songs, beginning with the soaring pop of “Hide (Myself Behind You),” which saw Gallo wax poetic on love and insecurity to a woozy-yet-catchy refrain. He billed “Please Don’t Die” as the only true love song he’s ever written, and its earnest reflections on growing old together were warmly received by the holiday weekend crowd, as well as his wife and bassist, Chiara D’Anzieri.

Gallo’s band was rounded out by Jerry Bernhardt on guitar and Josh Friedman on drums — the latter of whom appeared on the F@N stage for the second time this month, after playing with Cosmic Guilt at the beginning of November. The set’s second half turned even further reflective, with Gallo dusting off older songs and contemplating their meaning, and how that meaning has changed.

“Always Elsewhere” was “about how it’s really difficult to be where you are as a human being. I know I spend a lot of time in my head.” The song’s driving and noisy grove was punctuated by a quite flexible Gallo doing a split just ahead of the spoken word midsection, then diving into a Buzzcocks-esque outro. Leading into “It’s All Gonna Be OK” — written about maintaining a hopeful mindset during turbulent times — Gallo said “I’ve sincerely doubted the sentiment of this song a lot over the last two years, but ultimately I do still believe it.”

The set-closing song “All The Punks Are Domesticated” also took a then-and-now perspective, as its lyrics about fired-up folks hoping to change the world for the better easing off into domestic lives and detached complacency felt, to the songwriter, prophetic. “We’re gonna close a chapter with this next song,” Gallo said. “Way too many things in this song from 2015 came true in the last year and a half.” As he does on Peacemeal, Gallo updated the song with a new spoken section about the predictive nature of the lyrics, the fact that the world is always in flux, and the best direction to point is forward.

As the song simmered down and the broadcast ended, Gallo brought it to a lively (if not necessarily light) conclusion with two Heavy Meta tracks, “Please Yourself,” and “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me.” Listen to the full show and check out a photo gallery below; to dig into Ron Gallo’s extensive digital music catalog, check out his discography on Bandcamp.

Ron Gallo Free at Noon 11.26.2021
Poor Traits of the Artist
Hide (Myself Behind You)
Please Don’t Die
Always Everywhere
It’s All Gonna Be OK
Black Market Eyes
All The Punks Are Domesticated

Please Yourself
Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me