Gaslight Anthem at the Ogden Theatre, 4/29/13
GASLIGHT ANTHEM @ OGDEN THEATRE |4/29/12
Gaslight Anthem performed last night with a fluidity and emotional power worthy of peers like Hot Rod Circuit or Hot Water Music or perhaps even the E Street Band. Gaslight is clearly informed by punk, as edges of the band's guitar sound recalled Hüsker Dü, even when the players dipped into country progressions.
Frontman Brian Fallon's gritty voice has the appropriate level of character to give heft to the band's songs, lifting the anthems of everyday experiences and songs about girls, tragedy and death into a near mythical realm. Fallon's rich use of language and genuinely clever turns of phrase turned what might otherwise seem mundane into a genuinely heightened existential moment with each song.
After "Old White Lincoln," which featured beautifully intricate and moving guitar work, Fallon teased a bit of "Substitute," by the Who. He informed us that the band wasn't going to play the tune but that it was just thinking about it. But then, out of the blue, apparently prompted by someone in the audience, he said, "I wish we could play Van Halen right now," and the bass player started up the bass line to "Running With the Devil," and Fallon and the rest of the band joined in with a completely atonal rendition of the song.
And the antics didn't end there. The band stopped goofing on Van Halen, and Fallon shared anecdotes about B.B. King eating fifteen minutes before going on stage and how Johnny Cash used to sleep until ten minutes before a performance. Someone said, "He took a nap?" Fallon replied, "I think he took more than a nap. It's Johnny Cash."
In another shift, Fallon asked if we remembered Stone Temple Pilots and "Interstate Love Song." Not everyone did. He mentioned that the band loved the song and often played it, but that in England, they were unfamiliar with STP. He explained to audiences there that the band was from the 90s and that its singer had red hair and a drug problem. "No, not Axl Rose," he told them, evidently. Back in Denver, the jokes subsided soon after, and the guys went straight into "Blue Dahlia."
Everyone in the crowd knew the songs and sang along for the entire set, right up to the final song, "Keepsake." Without much delay, Fallon came on alone playing his guitar and was joined by opener Matt Mays for "National Anthem." The rest of the band then came on to finish out the show, beginning with "Desire" and closing with the defiant and triumphant tune "The Back Seat."
Earlier in the evening, the Matt Mays Band performed an earnest set that sounded like the songs were written, stripped down and then built back up into something more layered without sounding crowded. And those layers allowed for a subtle, atmospheric dynamism that you don't often hear in music like this. Mays and company ended their set with the epic "Terminal Romance."
Personal Bias: Brian Fallon is a fan of the Replacements, and you can tell that that intensity and intelligence inform his own music. I'm a fan of his ability to take that inspiration and write songs in his own creative voice imbued with a similar spirit.
Random Detail: At the end of the show, Fallon threw a water bottle high up into the balcony, and some guy caught it mid-air. It was a perfect moment.
By the Way: I went into this not really in the mood for a rock show but was won over by the energy of the band and Fallon's sense of humor.
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