July 24: Gaslight Anthem
Ah, the Ogden. A great venue that tends to bring out the best in any band, and will be alive and sentient, like a musical octopus flailing its tentacles whenever the place is packed. Gaslight Anthem just about overloaded the house last night, which is no small feat considering their music is not wholly mainstream, and that its clear ties to the Americana rock, working man's blues style made famous by Bruce Springsteen. Since their album, The '59 Sound came out in 2008, I was mostly sold. Brian Fallon's tortured, world-weary vocals are iconic. And the lyrical content is about love, life and success versus failure, all in a very middle-America way. This isn't heady dance music, it's straight up, aggressive power punk/rock. This was bound to be a good show. And what's more, I lucked into the ticket. A last minute invite from my buddy Sean that was a welcome gift/surprise.
I decided, though, that if the show sucked, I'd start with the admittedly lame statement: "You can't spell Gaslight Anthem without 'a slight.'" This was made easier to consider as the show went on because of an obscured Dead-esque skull and crossbones on a black banner, with Gaslight written in a biker-rock font. Due to a larger concert-goer, and I'm by no means difficult to obscure in a crowd, standing squarely in front of me, only to keep backing up, while performing violent arm raises and that power-pointing-toward-the-stage thing that represents agreement with the lyrics and a passion for the music, I couldn't see much of anything. I could see "aslight" for a while, hence the thought, but the good news is that the point is moot, if great at filling a little space here.
Gaslight Anthem was very strong, playing a good mix of work from The '59 Sound and the newest American Slang. They were powerful and grinding, and just played and played. There wasn't a lot of chitchat, just music. And they played 5 songs in encore, a notable amount, considering that they didn't milk the encore situation for more than two minutes. They played their set, left, took a breath and came back out to play more. It was refreshing and it was also just a phenomenally good show by a band that is exponentially heavier live than they are on a produced album. The impression given by the studio work is that the band plays thoughtful, semi-fast paced, contemplative rock. In practice though, they shred, with speeding, pounding, grinding guitar playing. It's a very different experience, and one that is really essential to properly appreciate Gaslight Anthem as a band.
The other acts, Chamberlain and Tim Barry both provided a similar powerful sound, though more in an emo-country, and country-rock style, respectively. The crowd wasn't as warm to them, something I always find problematic. If, as an audience member, you are not prepared to be there, to listen and to appreciate the fact that these bands are here to perform for you, then you should just hang out at the bar and shoot the shit there. I don't mean, of course, that all conversation is bad, but when a full auditorium of people doesn't clap unless the current act mentions the headliner, that's pretty inconsiderate and just poor audience participation. I'll admit, I didn't know those two bands either, and I didn't have the full capacity to appreciate their work, and in a lot of ways, they don't create the kind of music I'm currently into, but I still respect and appreciate what they do. It takes an incredible amount of courage and love of music to go up on a stage. Audience gripes aside, this was a hell of a show. Live music is rarely a disappointment, and Gaslight, et al., did not let us down.
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