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AAA Music | 28 June 2022

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The Gaslight Anthem @ Brixton Academy

| On 01, Jul 2010

London, 26th June

[cincopa 10654447]

Brixton. Synonymous with The Clash in a manner almost akin to Motörhead and Hammersmith. However last night, another punk rock band played its stage and if all goes as it should, they too will enter the hall of musical immortality. I am of course talking about New Jersey’s latest stadium-punk-rock export, The Gaslight Anthem. The gig had sold out the HMV Forum almost instantly, and so it was relocated to the larger Brixton Academy. Now without further ado, let’s get to business.

The night started with Sharks, who play a spiky, aggressive indie punk style of music with a stage presence that forcibly goes beyond the appearance of the band. They may look like four Shoreditch trendy beanpoles, but they play a total blinder of an opening set that was more along the lines of indie rock with a welcome sense of rabid energy, the guitars roaring from the speakers, and the drums sounding far too powerful for the small kit, which looked almost like a toy. The mic sound was unfortunately not up to scratch and the vocals were indistinct, however they seem to be a promising live band, and the 30-minute set hurtled by before you could even blink.

Twin Atlantic were up next and it was a slightly confusing set because although they have a sound that involves a lot of complex time signatures and rhythms and some twisting melodies that you’d bill as artful rock ‘n’ roll, their stage presence was almost that of a heavy metal band, and although this can sometimes work, having the support band telling the audience “this is a gig not a fucking funeral” in their first five or ten minutes often goes awry, and so they unfortunately lost the attention of quite a few people. This is a shame because although they seemed to have stolen the attitude of an 80s metal band (this is normally unacceptable behaviour unless you are an 80s metal band) they played a genuinely good set, with some truly inspired guitar work. In fact, the sound was so impressive that it literally unnerved me to listen in the first two songs, and the bass and drums were borderline explosive. That, and they managed to incorporate a cello into rock music without being Apocalyptica, and that alone is worth some kudos. If they are able to keep a lid on the cock rock attitude in future, they would be a good band to see live.

The Gaslight Anthem seemed to hijack the between-set music choices, giving the audience a welcome dose of Social Distortion before they played.

And of course, they opened their set with the title track of their new album, ‘American Slang’, and it already looks to be a firm fan favourite, with what sounded like the whole of Brixton singing along to every single word, testament to the incredible rapport The Gaslight Anthem hold with their fans, that even the newer songs are known inside-out.

Surging head-on into ‘Old White Lincoln’, the band displayed tireless energy from start to finish. Every note was played with a vitality and passion that very few bands can muster to that degree for one song, let alone keep up for 19 songs.

Thankfully, whoever was in charge of sound and mixing had sorted out the previous glitches, as the sound was crystal-clear at the barrier from all corners. This was welcome as the audience could hear the band’s sound in its entirety, and they have an impressive sound that can lazily be tagged as Springsteen through a punk filter, however there are indeed shades of The Clash among others that stand on their own and bleed through in the rapid and loud guitars with their newfound melodic riffs on display and warm, rhythmic bass and Brian Fallon’s compellingly raw yet tuneful vocals.

‘The Diamond Church Street Choir’ was a song I was indeed curious as to how they would pull off live, and this niggle was addressed as they gave a performance that sat much easier in the ears than the studio version, with the audience clapping the finger-clicks, and the chorus providing an easy sing-along. The stand-out tracks of their breakout album ‘The 59 Sound’ were also played on full form throughout, crackling with a renewed vitality. Perhaps my only gripe would be that there was one song from their debut ‘Sink Or Swim’, however as with many bands that are touring a new album, there would be an understandable bias towards newer material.

Yet another testament to the band is how down-to earth they have remained. Brian Fallon seemed more fanboy than frontman, and it is this open enthusiasm that separates The Gaslight Anthem from many bands of the moment, as they not only have the ability, but a genuine love for music and this manifests itself in the devotion of the audience, and the practically peerless emotional power of the music.

An interesting highlight of the set was a cover of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’ that was powerful enough to give the original a close run for its money.

The encore was entirely their older material, and it was here that ‘We Came To Dance’ made an appearance as the only ‘Sink Or Swim’ track of the night, and it has to be said that it is hard to imagine a Gaslight Anthem set without it. They finished with ‘Backseat’, which gave a truly emotive sense of closure to a great set.

A slightly more worrying aspect of the show was that The Gaslight Anthem’s drummer, Benny Horowitz, was absent, but their drum tech provided a satisfactory rendition of the solid, cymbal-edged percussion that is an important aspect of the band’s sound, but this unexplained absence was a cause for speculative concern.

However, it was a great show from a band on top form, with not a single moment feeling superfluous. The 90 minutes flew past in what felt like half that time. The Gaslight Anthem, despite mixed reviews of their latest album, seem poised for well-deserved greatness, and are a firm fixture on this reviewer’s list of bands that everyone needs to see live.

Setlist:

American Slang

Old White Lincoln

Stay Lucky

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

Bring It On

The Diamond Church Street Choir

Miles Davies And The Cool

The 59 Sound

Boxer

Spirit Of Jazz

The Queen Of Lower Chelsea

Great Expectations

Blue Jeans And White T-Shirts

Baba O’Reilly

Casanova, Baby!

We Came To Dance

Film Noir

Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid

The Backseat

Author & Photos: Katie H-Halinski