Gaslight Anthem Warehouse Live October 7, 2010
Quite a great deal of press - too much, really - has been given to the similarities between New Jersey's Gaslight Anthem and that other guy from the Garden State - Jon Bon J... er, Bruce Springsteen. Both Springsteen and GA lead singer Brian Fallon come from blue-collar roots, and both write songs about getting in a (preferably classic) car with your girl and getting the hell out of Dodge. Or Newark, whatever.
And to be sure, the band wears its influences on their heavily tatted sleeves. References to The Boss pepper the tracks of their first two albums, Sink or Swim and The '59 Sound, which are also laden with shout-outs to Miles Davis and Joe Strummer as well as overt lifts from Counting Crows, Charles Dickens and every artist who ever lived ("Miles Davis & The Cool").
But the question shouldn't be, "Are they derivative?" All art is theft, as Ozzy Osbourne once said. No, the question should be, "Does this band grab me with a hook, make me bounce along to the chorus, and leave me exhilarated at song's end?" And from the moment they stepped on the stage at Warehouse Live Thursday night, Gaslight Anthem did just that.
Last night's show was in support of American Slang, their latest album, which finds the band (mostly) abandoning their often slavish devotion to their musical roots and spreading their stylistic wings a bit more.
"Bring It On," the second song of the night, gave the audience a hint of what they were in for. It's a driving, soulful track, and fairly emblematic of the band's new sound. Fallon had to deal with the Springsteen shit early on, silencing cries of "Bruce!" by telling the shouters, "He's not fucking here, man."
The dude shut up.
The behavior of Aftermath's fellow Houstonians was a pleasant surprise. Die-hards crammed the stage, pogoing like mad to "1930" and "Great Expectations." But by and large, those assembled were well-behaved, enjoying the banter from the stage and obviously digging the show.
The only unusual thing we noticed was an inordinate number of women getting in arguments with their boyfriends, There's a "We're missing Grey's Anatomy for this?" crack in there, but we're not the ones to make it.
Again, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the Springsteen thing when your songs are largely somewhat anachronistic paeans to unrequited love and yearning for a better life off the mean streets. Then again, the Boss is hardly the only guy who ever wrote songs about that, and being from New Jersey probably helps those feelings, if you know what we're saying.
Aftermath realizes the definition of "punk rock" has become so diluted it can actually include bands like My Chemical Romance, but with the exception of a few songs, Gaslight Anthem strikes us as "punk" in the same way as Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell-era Social Distortion, when in reality both it and Slang are really aggro roots-rock made by guys who look like they dig burlesque and working on cars.
Alex Rosamilia used "Breakin' the Law" as his guitar check, for crying out loud, and the band took the stage to "Paradise City." Throw in the "Stand By Me" intro to "Id'a Called You Woody, Joe" and the Lyle Lovett interlude in the middle of "Angry Johnny and the Radio," and we'd say some reclassification might be in order.
By night's end, the crowd was largely undiminished, if noticeably sweatier, and immensely satisfied with what had ended up being a fine show indeed. Gaslight Anthem rewards its fans for sticking with them through the criticism by putting on a joyful, energetic gig. Fallon is a consummate front man, interacting effortlessly with the crowd and even allowing the ladies in the pit to come over the barricade and watch the show without getting jostled (and, presumably, so they could bat their eyes at him in peace).
One thing though, we understand the state of Texas is just an amorphous blob of cowboy hats, belt buckles and tumbleweeds to the sophisticated denizens of the Northeast, but nobody in Houston gives a shit about the Texas Rangers and whether or not they'll eliminate the Rays in the ALDS, Brian.
And (mildly) taunting us by making fun of the Cowboys is, not to put too fine a point on it, barking up the wrong tree. No hard feelings, though.
Fuck the Yankees.
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Personal Bias: Moderate. We prefer our punk to be of the snotty, cynical variety. But earnestness has its place, too.
The Crowd: Sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and dickheads. Actually, no bloods that we could see.
Overhead In The Crowd: "What's this band called?" "Gasoline Alley or something."
Random Notebook Dump: "Finally, a Penelope to go with all the Abbys." (See, Penelope is the chubby blonde FBI analyst from Criminal Minds, while Abby is the totally realistic Goth forensic analyst on NCIS. The point being, you see a lot more Abbys at shows, and we probably just killed the whole gag by explaining it.)