If last night’s show was any indication, The Gaslight Anthem is heading places. While the New Jersey quartet has only been a band for a few years, their fan base and popularity has exploded, taking them from no-name status to one of the most well-known names on the current indie scene. So big in fact, that one of the band’s main inspirations, the ‘Boss,” Bruce Springsteen himself, has had Gaslight open for him.
Yeah, that’s pretty huge for a band with only two albums under their belt.
Their sound brings to mind dusty record players and latenight drives around back alleys with the windows down. They are completely nostalgic while being grounded in the ferocity and intensity of modern rock music.
Oh, and they put on a great live show as well.
Sadly, before their show at Water Street last night, I had only spun their first album, ‘Sink or Swim,” but had heard little off of their highly acclaimed sophomore release, ‘The ’59 Sound” (which I’m told explains my not-quite-sold-on-them-yet-status ). The songs on ‘Sink or Swim” were solid, catchy tunes, but were short of ground-breaking or mind-blowing.
Gaslight walks the line just south of what I would consider punk rock, mixing blues and straight rock influence, tight vocals and catchy lyrics but with an element that culls from an older tradition of music that they draw heavily from and thus they stand out from the cookie cutter bands that swarm the airways.
So I went in to the show with mixed expectations. On one hand was Gaslight’s continued acclaim, which is by no means a bad thing, but now the band had to prove their mettle on the true musical battleground: the stage.
While they were by no means the best live act I’ve seen, they managed to put on a great show, playing their songs with the vigor and confidence that bands twice their age may never be able to achieve. While not listening to ‘The ’59 Sound” deprived me of singing along with many of the songs they played, the ones that I knew were great sounding renditions of the album versions.
And they also pulled out ‘We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner” as a final encore song after stating that they hadn’t played it for a while. As my favorite song, I was ecstatic.
While Gaslight doesn’t play as hard and fast as they can every moment, they are able to transition between slower-paced songs and their faster ones at ease, showing a fluidity that is well beyond what one would expect from most bands being around as long as they have been.
Their songs seemed to have a near universal appeal, with concertgoers who you could tell were show veterans and people who had never been out to a show before all in attendence.
And it wasn’t as if Gaslight toured with bad company either. Starting up the show was Philly’s The Loved Ones, who I have actually been lucky enough to catch in concert once before. I’m a pretty big fan of their mixing of Americana and rock music, and while they seemed to be missing their keyboard player and didn’t play my favorite track (‘Louisiana”), they are still a great opening band and I was glad to be able to see them again.
Second on the bill was folk rockers Murder by Death. I had never heard them before, and I have to say that after their set I’m going to have to start listening to them, which is quite something to say for a band after only seeing them once. Blending deep baritone vocals that bring to mind the original Man in Black himself, Murder by Death takes the folk core of their songs and mashes it with intense riffs and loud drums, creating a sound and enjoyable show presence.
And they had a cello. I never knew the cello could be so exciting and played so sensuously, but Murder by Death was able to do that and more, warming up the audience and setting the bar high for Gaslight to come with their set.
All in all, it was a great show with a bill full of great bands and rising talent.
While I know that my recommendation should carry no more bearing than Bruce Springsteen’s, it should be said that while Gaslight isn’t breaking ground or trying to invent the wheel, they are recreating old ground and putting their own spin on the wheel, taking fans along for the musically enjoyable ride.
They aren’t the best band ever, but they are a breath of fresh air in the current music scene.
And, like I said before, if last night was any indication, this is just the beginning from rising stars The Gaslight Anthem.
Clark is a member of
the class of 2012.