Gaslight Anthem House of Blues April 25, 2013
At 10 p.m. sharp Thursday night, as Cutting Crew's "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight" blared on the speakers overheard, the Jersey-born and -bred, punk rock five-piece The Gaslight Anthem sauntered out onto the stage at House of Blues. Fans cheered, and the band began its set with "High Lonesome," an uptempo ballad that addresses the clash between dreams and reality.
It was a fitting opener for a band that, by all accounts, is living the dream and is arguably near the height of its career, though its members are surely working their hardest to balance their stage personas with with the day-to-day struggles of being brothers, husbands and fathers.
Though it can't be easy, The Gaslight Anthem may be the very band to pull it off.
Led by vocalist Brian Fallon, the band's songs, heavily influenced (and endorsed) by the one and only Bruce Springsteen, create a paradox of accessible rhythms and beats, laced with complex lyricism. The themes are easy enough to follow, but Fallon must be the only contemporary vocalist who can write a song, pleading with the crowd to let him keep some of his life private ("Too Much Blood"), then convincingly sing another from a woman's perspective ("Here Comes My Man").
He writes of heartbreak, both romantic and familial; he sings of friends who have died, paying homage to their memories; he manages to reference Elvis, The Counting Crows and Tom Petty in a single song; and he speaks of a mother so strong than neither she, nor he, needs that deadbeat's approval or attention.
"It's been 31 years since she's been in your arms," Fallon crooned, near the end of Thursday night's performance. "But don't worry 'bout Mama; Mama's got a good heart. And I'm not looking for your love; I'm only sniffing out blood. Just a little taste of where I came from."
Though he may not be looking for affirmation from his father, Fallon and the rest of Gaslight were notably put off by House of Blues' chatty crowd Thursday night, seamlessly transitioning from one song to the next, performing nearly 25 songs in barely over 90 minutes.
Save for a few references to the rivalry between Dallas and Houston -- Fallon argued that he could throw a ball farther and better than the Texans' Matt Schaub -- and a botched attempt during their encore to endorse one of the opening acts, there was no interaction with the fans.
Loud and boisterous crowds in Houston are to be expected, though, and this isn't Gaslight's first performance in the Bayou City. Nonetheless, their performance, which included at least one cut off each of the four albums that the band has released so far, focusing on Handwritten and The '59 Sound, was strong enough that, by the time it ended just past 11:30, the rowdiness was insignificant, at least from the crowd's perspective.
I was first introduced to the group's music when they released "45" as a single, just a little over a year ago. But I've since gone back through their old records, and I haven't stopped listening to them since I first discovered them.
Four albums in, the band seems to be at the apex of its career. But with the Boss' endorsement, coupled with solid songwriting and musicianship, The Gaslight Anthem's career may very well be in its infancy. Here's hoping, because Top 40 could use a little more soul, substance and passion. And these guys have all three. In spades.
Personal Bias: It's been a long time since I heard a band that hit me like this.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Have you ever noticed that, other than Macklemore, the only people who have that hair cut are punk rock chicks?"
Random Notebook Dump: Lone Stars are $6?!
High Lonesome The '59 Sound Handwritten Even Cowgirls Get The Blues Biloxi Parish Blue Dahlia The Patient Ferris Wheel The Queen Of Lower Chelsea "45" Too Much Blood Film Noir Here Comes My Man I Coul'da Been A Contender Senor & The Queen Mae Great Expectations Keepsake
National Anthem Mulholland Drive Desire Here's Looking At You, Kid The Backseat