As a special end-of-year hometown (well, home state) show, The Gaslight Anthem grabbed their friends in Vision, Communication Redlight, and The Hold Outs and booked Montclair’s recently renovated Wellmont Theatre. Located a block from the legendary punk club Bloomfield Ave. Cafe, the Theatre packed the house for The Gaslight Anthem on a frigid Friday night.
Arriving late, I caught part of direct-support act Vision. The hardcore-punk five-piece sounded great, engaging much of the older crowd who likely grew up listening to the band in the early 1990s. Veteran frontman Dave Franklin–who has been in and out of various punk bands in the last decade including a stint with New York hardcore pioneers Killing Time–is clearly aging, but his voice remains solid. The band’s lengthy set concluded with Watching the World Burn‘s fairly recent “Close Minded” and 1989’s “Falling Apart” from In the Blink of an Eye.
With a huge chorus and Alex Levine’s throbbing bass line, “Old White Lincoln” kicked off The Gaslight Anthem‘s set. The crowd found themselves along to The ’59 Sound‘s hit single: “You and your high top sneakers and your sailor tattoos / Your old ’55 that you drove through the roof / Of the sky, up above these indifferent stars / Where you just kept coming apart, straight in my arms”.
“Wooderson”, the first of six songs from the band’s 2007 debut, Sink or Swim, followed and offered a peak into the band’s more punk-influenced catalog. Following an excellent performance of “Wherefore Art Though, Elvis?”, “High Lonesome” was revealed to be about some sort of illegal situation (who could have guessed — “the powder on the bar was just this one night, only to get by”).
“We Came to Dance” was not only one of the band’s best songs of the evening but also a fine tribute to fellow Jersey-punks Lifetime (hey, wasn’t that vocalist Ari Katz in the pit for Vision just a half hour earlier?) with the lyrics “we learned from the very best dancers around” paying homage to the band’s seminal Jersey’s Best Dancers.
Following Alex Rosamilia’s eerie opening riff, the crowd exploded on “Great Expectations”, only to be tamed by the mild “Miles Davis and The Cool”. The Asbury Park-inspired “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” received an extra warm applause from the local crowd, and “Meet Me by the River’s Edge” was a welcome surprise to the setlist. Frontman Brian Fallon explained “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” as about the girls you meet but don’t ever end up with.
The Gaslight Anthem wrapped up the first part of their setlist with the title-track and “the first song [they] wrote for The ’59 Sound“. The band’s encore kicked off with “Casanova, Baby!” and continued along with Benny Horowitz’s pounding drums on long-time fan-favorite “1930”.
Earlier in the set, Fallon contended that with the invention of high-quality cell phone recording and “that Apple company”, he would not play new songs live for fear of having them leaked early. That went out the window sometime after 11PM, though, when The Gaslight Anthem debuted “Bring it On” for the first time live. Sonically resembling Sink or Swim, the song also appeared to draw influence from Bruce Springsteen (notably, “The Rising”) and possibly Elvis Presley–at least those are my first impressions.
“Say I Won’t (Recognize)” may be one of the band’s best live songs, and when mixed with Fallon singing a few verses from “House of the Rising Sun” and Vision’s Franklin on backing vocals, it’s even better. The penultimate “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner” resulted in the biggest pit of the evening; “The Backseat” was a rousing closing sing-a-long. The full set:
Old White Lincoln
Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
We Came to Dance
I’da Called You Woody, Joe
Miles Davis and The Cool
Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
Meet Me by the River’s Edge
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
The ’59 Sound
Bring It On
The Navesink Banks
Refugee (Tom Petty cover)
Say I Won’t (Recognize)
We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner
Across twenty-two songs, The Gaslight Anthem never missed a beat. Fallon sounded remarkable, and when he wasn’t singing he was lauding Rosamilia’s lead guitar which also happened to be near-perfect (though he did briefly slip out of key during “Here’s Looking At You, Kid”). At the band’s request, I’m holding off on putting up a recording of “Bring it On”, but the song sounded amazing and shows incredible promise for the band’s next album. Though The Gaslight Anthem is likely going to be holed up for some time recording that new album (due in 2010), Fallon will be doing some solo dates over the coming months–don’t miss the chance to catch these songs (and a great set of covers) performed acoustic.
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