There was a buzz around, and not just from ears still ringing years after last seeing them, when one of the great modern American rock (and definitely rock, there being no hyphens involved here) bands started playing gigs again this year.
Gaslight Anthem, from New Jersey, from a long line of intense rock archetypes (as the review below touches on), inspire intensity and devotion in about the same quantities as they exhibit. It’s not hard to understand why.
This show in 2013 had a lot going on.
Enmore Theatre, May 12, 2013
THERE WAS A LUMMOX behind me, who had been loudly - of course, loudly - suggesting that Brian Fallon just shut up and play any time the frontman of New Jersey’s second finest band paused from the fast, furious and frantically fun attack to yarn or joke around.
Said lummox had also spent much of the night yelling, with increasing agitation, for Stay Lucky, a cracking song from 2010’s American Slang album but nowhere to be found in the 22 songs rattled through this night.
Both complaints missed a couple of crucial points. First up, at the energy level with which Gaslight Anthem play many of their songs - regularly rolling through a slew of them without pause to boot - a breath and a re-girding of the loins for the next wave is essential. For us I mean, given it seems almost every song finds us singing/shouting in unison like best buddies on a 10th beer high, and throwing back at the stage as much heat as they give off.
Though it should be noted that even at the level of punkish tempo pushing classic American rock structures (or if you will, the Clash circa Give ‘Em Enough Rope playing Springsteen’s “lost” album between Born To Run and Darkness) Gaslight Anthem find shadings which can come in surprising forms.
There’s the hip swing beneath Handwritten and Senor And The Queen, the pop song only lightly obscured in The ’59 Sound, and the measured heavy tread of Keepsake. But also in both the heavy reverb of Benny Horowitz’s drums and several of the guitar lines from Alex Rosamilia there’s more than a hint of some early ‘70s hard rock, both Sabbath and the more varied Blue Oyster Cult. Odd but true.
The other point is that while Stay Lucky didn’t make it there were forays into their first album via the husky ballad of Angry Johnny And The Radio and the punch to the chest of 1930, two types of classic blue collar anthem in the urgent Desire and the soulful Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts, and songs like The Queen Of Lower Chelsea to remind us that the reason Gaslight Anthem are one of the great modern American bands is they can write as well as they can ride their undoubted energy.