Jack Gallagher has long been a serious music fan – a study-the-liner-notes and memorize-the-credits kind of fan. A play-the-song-over-and-over-again type of fan.
Gallagher will tell you no matter how many times he hears it, he can’t get over the plaintive soulfulness in Rick Danko’s voice on The Band’s “It Makes No Difference.” Now 62, Gallagher came up in the original era of vinyl; his first 45 was Wilson Pickett’s “Funky Broadway” and first LP was the Association’s “Greatest Hits” with songs such as the great “Windy” (“Who’s tripping down the streets of the city / Smilin’ at everybody she sees?”).
The comedian will put his musical obsession at the center of his new one-man show “5 Songs,” which opens Sunday on the B Street Theatre Mainstage. Gallagher said the director, Jerry Montoya, views the work as a series of short stories.
“Some are very short, some are longer, but I talk about everything from my work to personal stuff,” Gallagher said. “Each song serves as a jumping off point for that.”
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His confident yet easygoing style on stage was honed from years on the road working as a stand-up comedian at comedy clubs across the country.
Gallagher’s narrative comic monologues, which started with “Letters to Declan” in 1993, are familiar to B Street audiences. “5 Songs” will be his fifth play commissioned and produced there, the others being “Just the Guy” (2002), “What He Left” (2006), “A Different Kind of Cool” (2010) and “Complete and Unfinished” (2013).
He created a “5 Songs” podcast last year with friend and musical collaborator Tommy Dunbar, best known as the songwriter and guitarist for power pop band The Rubinoos. Dunbar also served as musical director for Gallagher’s musical performances in “The Joke’s on Me.”
In the podcast a guest brings in five songs that become the basis for a wide-ranging discussion of music and life among Gallagher, Dunbar and the guest.
Guests have included Gallagher’s B Street comrades Buck Busfield and Dave Pierini; wine writer, public radio “Insight” host and former Bee columnist Rick Kushman; guitarist and founding member of Oleander Ric Ivanisevich; and jazz vocalist Beth Duncan. Yours truly was the podcast’s first guest.
Dunbar and his guitar will join Gallagher on stage for “5 Songs.”
After Gallagher’s last show, “Complete and Unfinished,” which contained numerous musical references, he started listing songs he liked and why he liked them. He got up to 300 at a certain point.
“I started to pare the list down to a reasonable number. I got it to 12 then down to 10,” Gallagher said. “Then I started thinking about songs I didn’t like for a reason. Those became interesting to me.”
The list has been narrowed down to nine songs, Every night the audience will choose four, Gallagher will choose one, and the stories associated with those songs will make up the show. “Each song has a story, and each story is true,” Gallagher said.
“So it will be different every night. I wanted it to have more audience-participation,” Gallagher said. Some of the choices will be familiar, others fairly obscure.
“There’s a song by Alejandro Escovedo; people don’t know who he is. There’re also songs everybody knows like ‘King of the Road.’ My fear is for three weeks I’m not going to do the Alejandro Escovedo song, and someone’s gonna ask for it and I’ll be like, ‘OK, gimme a minute, I haven’t done it in three weeks.’”
Adding to the difficulty of putting the show are the effects of a September bicycling accident. Gallagher was struck by a car. He hit its windshield with his helmeted head. He received a serious concussion and still gets severe headaches and has occasional memory lapses.
In general Gallagher’s stage work is a contradiction that he said his wife, Jean Dunn, has pointed out to him.
“I’m not a very social person,” Gallagher said. “I like to be alone, but what I’ve discovered is maybe the insecurities that I have or the joys that I have in life are shared by other people. When you talk about this stuff, you make a connection with people in a way.”
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.
‘5 Songs’ by Jack Gallagher
What: A show based on the comedian’s love of pop music
When: Previews 5 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday . Opens 7 p.m. Sunday. Continues 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 9 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Sundays through March 1.
Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento
Cost: $23-$35, $5 student rush, $15 previews
Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org