The Gaslight Anthem at Hammersmith Apollo
Such was the demand for The Gaslight Anthem’s celebration of the ten-year anniversary of seminal album The ’59 Sound, a second date at the Eventim Apollo was added to the relief of fans. That relief was all the more powerful with the acceptance that this could well be the band’s last hurrah, having announced a hiatus in 2015. It may have taken a special birthday for a special album to bring the four-piece back together, but there were no signs of rustiness as the New Jersey rockers flawlessly delivered their iconic record in its entirety to an exuberant and adoring crowd.
Brian Fallon dove straight into the whoa-oh’s that mark the introduction to Handwritten, and from that moment on the crowd was on their side. Handwritten is a microcosm of the band in four minutes, in equal parts anthemic and wistful. A trio of tracks from 2010’s American Slang followed; none of the songs would be classed as the lead singles from the album, but an onlooker would have had no idea from the way that the capacity crowd bellowed back every word.
However, this was all just a prelude to the main event. The ’59 Sound has an enviable timeless quality, with the songs feeling just as fresh and exciting as they did upon their release in 2008. Fallon has one of the most distinctive voices in modern rock, with a Springsteen-esque versatility to switch seamlessly between a charming croon and a raucous howl. The strength of the songs needs no further debate, with the album one of the most influential punk releases of the 21st century. These songs translate powerfully into the live atmosphere, with The Gaslight Anthem bouncing through the tracks with the confidence of a band at the top of their game.
The title track is a powerful ode to lost friends, with its lyrical sadness juxtaposed with an infectious melody that makes for a cathartic experience. Old White Lincoln bounces with rapidly delivered romanticisms, while the retro references to High Lonesome come out in both the lyrics and the music. The presence of three guitars gave the performance a full sound that effortlessly filled the venue. There were few interactions between the band and the crowd, but those interactions showed the four-piece’s humility and gratitude. Of course, fewer interludes of talking meant more room for songs, and throughout the night The Gaslight Anthem engaged in a symbiotic relationship with the crowd as they fed off each other’s energy and flagrant euphoria. The rockers may have been on a hiatus before the gig and may return to that state after the tour, but this was not reflected in the performance.
Nowadays there’s nostalgia for everything, from cinema to games (did anyone else notice all those no deposit bonus casino billboards in London?), and The ’59 Sound is similarly steeped in nostalgia, with references to celebrities of a bygone age, classic cars and Ferris wheels. It doesn’t matter if fans can’t relate to those specifics, because Fallon’s clever lyricism cuts to the heart of coming to terms with that nostalgia.
The Backseat is a tour-de-force of a closer, its instrumental outro giving the band and the crowd a euphoric end to what had so far been a special night. The inevitable emotional consequence of playing such an influential album in full meant that the crowd level dropped once the final chord of The Backseat rang out. This meant that when The Gaslight Anthem pulled out consecutive b-sides, the daring key change of Blue Dahlia and the brooding Halloween struggled to engage a recuperating crowd in the manner of the previous hour. The energy levels picked right back up as the band jumped into some of their most energetic hits from 2012’s Handwritten, with the pace and energy of ’45 and Howl giving the crowd a second wind. When The Gaslight Anthem brought the night to a close with American Slang, it marked the end of a night that had seen both band and crowd give their all.
Perhaps the most touching moment in a night full of emotion came with Here’s Looking at You, Kid, which sees Fallon recall lost loves and missed opportunities. “You can tell Gail if she calls that I’m famous now for all of these rock and roll songs,” the track begins. In 2008, that line was firmly tongue-in-cheek. Ten years later, at a gig in London added to the tour because of unprecedented demand, Fallon delivers it with a bashful smile. While New Jersey rockers may not have achieved the mainstream success that their relatable lyrics and anthemic choruses warrant, they should be in little doubt over the effect they have had on so many lives. If this is the last we see of The Gaslight Anthem, then they certainly went out in style.
The editorial unit
Photo: Nicole Kibert / www.elawgrrl.com
For further information and future events visit The Gaslight Anthem’s website here.