On July 24th, ASCAP band Gaslight Anthem capped the first leg of a tour supporting their new album Handwritten with a spirited, sold-out show at New York City's Webster Hall. This was a relatively intimate affair - they headlined Radio City Music Hall in 2010 - and they seemed to relish playing the charmingly worn-down club on the day of the album's release.
Opening with the new song "Mae," played live for the first time, the band members were clearly in synch with each other from the start. "Mae" is a melancholy reflection on old lovers and passed-by towns (admittedly, like many a Gaslight song), but one that features a beautiful, bouncing bass line underneath a cascading guitar lick. In many ways, it is a tune emblematic of the new album - Gaslight Anthem aren't redefining their sound on Handwritten as much as evolving it. The themes, vibe and, in some cases, lyrical snippets remain largely unchanged from earlier efforts (it's safe to say that the radio has been left permanently "on" throughout all of their songs), but they are a more mature, tighter band than before.
The Gaslight Anthem at Webster Hall. Photo by Andrew Sparkler.
This heightened level of precision was apparent at Webster Hall. While much of the media's attention focuses on Brian Fallon, the band's charismatic (and photogenic) front man, all of the band members deserve kudos for their musical chops. Drummer Benny Horowitz, lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia, bassist Alex Levine and Fallon (who played rhythm and sometimes lead guitar) turned in a set that evenly plucked material across the band's four LPs and one EP. Ian Perkins, the band's one-time guitar tech who recorded an album with Fallon in 2011 as the Horrible Crowes [read the Playback interview with them here], sat in for the entire show and his contributions were notable, if too infrequent. Perkins is a skilled player and it would have been nice to have him step out in front on a couple of solos.
Fallon's lyrics frequently glorify the past and thus, it shouldn't be a surprise that he will, oftentimes, throw in portions (if not entire renditions) of cover songs into the set. Old soul ditties a la Sam and Dave, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett are common choices, but at this show Fallon quoted a few lines from Dave Matthews Band's "Crash into Me" and Paul Westerberg's "Waiting for Somebody" (Fallon, Matthews and Westerberg are all long-time ASCAP members). He also played an excellent solo version of Fake Problems' "Songs for Teenagers."
The sold-out crowd at Webster Hall. Photo by Andrew Sparkler.
In addition to his musicianship, Fallon's on-stage persona ensured that the crowd would enjoy the show. Most notably, he smiled throughout the entire performance. And not in a posing-for-a-school-picture-forced-grimace, but more so in genuine elation that 1,500 people actually showed up to hear his band. Never mind that this was the last night of a long tour and The Gaslight Anthem have played in front of festival crowds all over the world; Fallon projected an unjaded and excited persona that was contagious to all in attendance. On this night, the audience danced, moshed and sang through most every tune - displaying just as much enthusiasm for the three tracks played off of the band's first EP as they did for the more familiar numbers like "The '59 Sound," "Old White Lincoln" and "American Slang." While the Webster Hall show was an increasingly rare club date for The Gaslight Anthem, the energy of their live show is one that works equally well in front of 1,500 or 15,000.
The '59 Sound
Old White Lincoln
Ida Called You Woody Joe
Angry Johnny and the Radio (with "Crash into Me" verse)
Here Comes My Man
The Diamond Church Street Choir
The Navesink Banks
Here's Looking at You, Kid
Too Much Blood
Songs for Teenagers (solo)
Seńor and the Queen
The Patient Ferris Wheel
Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts
American Slang (with "Waiting for Somebody" verse)
The Gaslight Anthem's new album Handwritten is out now.
Find out more about the band at www.thegaslightanthem.com.