The Gaslight Anthem: Columbus, OH July 28 (Concert Review)

July 29, 2010

The kids are alright. See, I do realize I wax cheesily when discussing certain musicians, and I readily admit that Gaslight Anthem affects me that way. A friend and I drove just short of 4 hours to see them at the Lifestyles Pavillion in Columbus, Ohio, which turned out to be one of the best venues I’ve caught a show at in quite some time. It’s set up great, with one level right near the stage, one level up a step or two with a railing and a third level up a flight of stairs with chairs and a balcony to watch the show from above. We got on the main floor and watched from as close to the stage as we could get, although the pit can wear you out quickly and cause you to back up a little occasionally to watch from the peripheral area.

Opening for the band was punk turned folkie from VA, Tim Barry, followed by a reformed Chamberlain, the roots rock band that evolved from the Indianapolis punk band Split Lip. I’ve been listening to Chamberlain’s “The Moon is My Saddle” and Barry’s “28th and Stonewall” for the past week or so to get familiar with the music before the show. The Chamberlain disc really grew on me and by the time I saw them bring it together live I was sold as a fan. Tim Barry, on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure about going into the show. I loved “Prosser’s Gabriel,” and like songs like “With ease I Leave,” on the album but loathed “Downtown VCU” so much that it made me shelf the album until I saw Tim live. I still hate “VCU,” but Tim played a 35 minute acoustic set with great wit, passion, and energy; the simple chords and refrains came on strong and when he spoke about Gabriel Prosser before launching into the song, even mentioning that he planned to go to the actual Virginia parking lot that is paved over the grave of Prosser next month to perform a free show and install a memorial in the parking lot—he says he’s been told to take along a lawyer because such a stunt will undoubtedly result in an arrest. That’s ballsy—that’s punk, but more so than any posturing, that’s admirable and worthwhile and I wish him all the luck. I also really enjoyed his closer and the story behind it, “Dog Bumped.” And the first time I listened to this record, I took the rail-jumping/train-riding songs as nostalgic folk posturing, but if we’re to believe what Tim had to say in discussing those songs, the dude actually rides the rails Depression-era style (and as hard to believe as that may be, I buy it after seeing this guy play and hearing his undoubted authenticity). I’ve since went back and listened to his records again and really dig them, I think I’m going to end up enjoying Barry even more than the other punk turned folkie (though a Brit) that I also discovered from hearing that he shared the road with Gaslight, Frank Turner.

So, after two good opening acts Gaslight took the stage and sparked the crowd-and it rocked. It was an hour and a half of heart on sleeve, sing-along, jump up and down, friendly moshing in the pit, fists in the air, rock and roll.  I love every song Gaslight has so far recorded, so there couldn’t have been an unsatisfying set list for me, but this one did more than enough to do the job. They opened with “American Slang,” and segued straight into “Boxer.” We got “Miles Davis and the Cool,” “The ’59 Sound,” a nice delayed intro version of “Film Noir,” an appropriately timed chill-out “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts,” then later “Boom Boxes and Dictionaries,” and a set closing “Great Expectations.” I noticed many things observing the crowd—mainly age. This was the youngest audience I’ve been in at a show this past year or more—DBT, Hold Steady, and others I’ve seen draw a lot of 26-59 people. Gaslight brought out the 18-24 set in droves;  18 year old girls sang along with songs that quoted Elvis, Springsteen and Petty and that looked at the magic, heartbreak, possibility and the ethos of potentiality of youth in an almost nostalgic manner, even one that laments a now separated first wife. Yet of course, not all of Gaslight is geared at those looking back, some works just fine for those in those moments the first time around. The DYI touring and playing combined with the frantic energy of melodic punk with a roots rock base taps into a young market it seems, and I’m thankful. The band can’t be out of their twenties yet either, so it’s nice to see young folks making true to the core yet authentic and inspired rock and roll in the 2010s that is also finding an audience in the youth that it sings so eloquently about.

The encore really was the stuff with this show. Gaslight came back to do a Lucero cover about “The War,” (not a current political song but a historical folksy song about WWII) with a great assist from Tim Barry. Barry did great and held his own with Gaslight, and for a performer who had admitted the nervousness he felt performing in front of a crowd larger than he was used to while doing his own set, you certainly couldn’t tell he had anxiety or uncertainty of his talent. Incidentally, I hadn’t heard the Memphis based punk with roots rock core band (but with more overt southern influence than Gaslight) Lucero before, but have thanks yet again to Gaslight discovered another great rock and roll band.  Following “The War” was “We Came to Dance,” the one song I was still holding out for by this point in the night, and it sounded great. Although all 7 of the encore songs were great (which included “Senor and the Queen” and closed with “The Backseats”), the surprise and the highlight was a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” and as lead singer Brian Fallon crooned the classic “teenage wasteland” of a rock chorus, he sounded uncannily like the original vocalist Roger Daltrey. It felt like we were getting to hear that rock anthem the first time around 30 something years ago and it was rock perfection.

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One Response to “The Gaslight Anthem: Columbus, OH July 28 (Concert Review)”

  1. dwhamby1 said

    Gaslight Anthem are one of the best new bands I’ve heard in years. My ipod doesn’t find many new artists on it but GA is the most played in years. I haven’t heard one bad song. It’s one of the few artists I would download all the songs. I expect this band will be around for many years. It pays to be original!!!!!! Not every band has to sound like somebody else.

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