Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Gaslight Anthem @ Marathon Music Works (Concert Review)

One of the trademarks of a truly great band – you know, the kind who routinely get tagged with qualifiers like quintessential and legendary – is their ability to perfectly straddle the line between road-tested professionalism and reckless abandon. For The Gaslight Anthem’s much-anticipated return to Nashville, they effortlessly played the part of the luxury railroad car threatening to jump the tracks at any moment. Blending the bravado of punk, the drama of rock and the velvety cool of soul music, Brian Fallon and the boys had a packed out Marathon Music Works dancing elbow to elbow and singing along to every lyric at the top of their lungs. For a band like The Gaslight Anthem, fans don't just like them, they believe in them and a concert isn't just a show, it's a rock & roll rite of passage. While that all may sound a bit hyperbolic, it's none the less true. While fellow Garden Staters Bon Jovi were playing across town on the very same night, The Gaslight Anthem proved that New Jersey's finest had set up shop here.  

There's a certain irreverently reverential air to Gaslight Anthem shows. They mix time-honored traditions - influential walk-on music (The Replacement's "Can't Hardly Wait" for this tour) crashing into the opening number and always closing out the main set with "The Backseat" - with surprises like an ever-changing setlist that features obscure numbers and rarely played gems scattered throughout the mainstays. Even though Gaslight rose up through the punk rock ranks, each successive album has showcased a more nuanced and layered side to the band's repertoire. With four full-length records and a handful of EPs and singles to choose songs from, their concerts have become a diverse sonic stretch through punk anthems, emotive ballads, huge rock chorus, quiet hymns, gritty blues and a rich amalgam of genres that can only be described as "the Gaslight sound."    

Wednesday's night show featured a setlist that was heavy on their smash sophomore release The '59 Sound and their most recent record Handwritten, recorded here in Nashville last year. They opened the show with the explosive "Howl" and the crowd kept in step with every word Brian sang, threatening at many moments to even overpower him. Up for the challenge, the band then launched into a trio of tracks from The '59 Sound, arguably their best loved record to date. After a spirited tromp through the pounding "45," they dipped back into their debut, Sink or Swim, for Brian's love letter to The Clash, "I'da Called You Woody, Joe." The next two songs they played is a great example of their love for throwing the occasional curveball into the mix. "Our Father's Sons" is a song that can only be found on their iTunes Session digital EP and "Blue Dahlia" is a bonus track that's only on the deluxe edition of Handwritten. However, with how the crowd continued to singalong without missing a step, you would've thought these were some of their most successful singles. They continued this successful pattern of album-specific chunks broken up by random beloveds and by the time they launched into  "The Backseat," the crowd was not ready to let them call it a night. They came back out for an encore of 4 more fan favorites and as Brian bid the crowd "good night" and charged into "Great Expectations," the crowd erupted like it was the last song they'd ever sing. With the band truly firing on all cylinders and continuing to crank out some of the best music the genre has to offer, thankfully it doesn't appear that'll be happening any time soon. 

 “Can’t Hardly Wait” (intro music)
- Howl
- Casanova, Baby!
- Old White Lincoln
- Film Noir
- “45”
- I’da Called You Woody, Joe
- Our Father’s Sons
- Blue Dahlia
- Biloxi Parish
- Mulholland Drive
- Too Much Blood
- The Queen of Lower Chelsea
- Wooderson
- Meet Me By The River’s Edge
- Here Comes My Man
- The ’59 Sound
- Here’s Looking At You, Kid
- The Backseat
- American Slang
- The Patient Ferris Wheel
- Mae
- Great Expectations


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