The Gaslight Anthem mix the old with the new

A review of The Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues on August 2, 2010

, Contributing Writer

It almost goes without noting that modern indie rock has the image of being the music of the well-off. It has been mentioned many times before, and there a scarily few examples to prove otherwise. One of those bands is The Gaslight Anthem, and their brand of everyman punk, built for the stadium masses, is down-to-earth even as it’s emotionally arresting and sonically engulfing. On Monday night, The Gaslight Anthem, along with eclectic and off-the-beaten-path opening acts befitting the Gaslight Anthem’s style hit the House of Blues.

The Gaslight Anthem opened the show with “American Slang”, the opening and title track to their new album. It’s an upbeat song, like most from The Gaslight Anthem, but it has a certain weightiness to it, as does much of the rest of the album. It feels slightly measured and slightly cautious, like the band is well aware of their increased audience. This comes at odds with their earlier material, and much of the night was an ebb and flow between the rave-up punk anthems like “The ’59 Sound,” and “Great Expectations” and the slightly more confined and stately new material.

If it made the show inconsistent at times, it also showed the versatility of the band more often and the dynamics only heightened the peaks of their energy. “The Diamond Street Choir,” showcased frontman Brian Fallon’s ability to deliver plaintive and emotive vocals live that are just as hard-hitting and defined as they on record. Elsewhere on “Miles Davis & the Cool” the band showed off their best Bruce Springsteen impression, on a rising and gradually building song that features a “Born to Run” style ascending breakdown.

In the middle portion of the set, things started to lag just a bit as the band played some of the slower tunes off American Slang. Oddly, the show picked back up with the slow and nostalgic “Blue Jeans and White t-Shirts” a fan favorite that got the crowd back and engaged. From there they kept the energy relatively up closed the show on a high note, playing a rousing version of “Great Expectations” as the set closer and then playing a generous 20 minute encore, where they brought out opener Tim Ferry to perform a cover of “At War”.

Part of made the whole night successful, even as the music wasn’t always going full throttle, was the feeling of camaraderie and good feeling between all the bands and the fans that filled the House of Blues. As Fallon noted, The Gaslight Anthem hand picked Tim Ferry and Chamberlain  to join them on tour because they were exactly the artists they wanted to be with. Fallon came on stage to play with Chamberlain for a song during their set, and the aforementioned song with Tim Ferry was both genuine, and one of the best moments of the night.

Perhaps the best example of this friendliness was at the close of the show when Fallon introduced “Here’s to Looking at You, Kid” by dedicating it to a girl he had met outside who was turning 19. “She said she hoped 19 would be better ‘cause being 18 sucked. Well, this song is kind of about how bad 18 was for me too.” It was a touching moment, in a set full of real emotion and feeling.

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