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AAA Music | 23 October 2019

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The Gaslight Anthem @ HMV Apollo

| On 23, Oct 2010

London, 21st October

Being Clash fanboys, New Jersey punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem are practically salivating as they hit the stage at the Hamme- sorry HMV Apollo (and they say punk is dead…) for what could be their largest headline show to date on British soil. Now this reporter knows from experience that Gaslight can be an utterly incendiary live act but last time I saw them, at the equally iconic Brixton Academy they seemed dwarfed, at once by the enormous size and by the venue’s pedigree. But tonight, a night they had pretty much prepared for since their first visit to UK shores two years ago, they absolutely slaughtered it, leaving the capacity crowd in no doubt that they will not be seeing this particular band in any smaller venues any time soon.

A Gaslight show is not one that lives or dies by its set-list. They’re one of the few bands, in my opinion, that have never released a “Bad” song, there’s just good songs, better songs, even better songs, songs so mind-bendingly genius you envy people that haven’t heard them before, because they get to hear them for the first time, and then there’s I could’a been a contender. And that’s something else entirely. But more on that later, what becomes immediately clear when Gaslight stride on stage is that Brian Fallon has become one of modern rocks greatest front men. Somehow getting away with double denim and a red fedora, he’s Joe Strummer when he’s holding a guitar and a mix of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen without it, mixing salt of the earth charm with soul revue style theatrics and getting the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand by the end of thunderous opener High Lonesome.

Unlike most punk shows, a Gaslight gig is not a full steam ahead thrash through the fastest songs they have before the audience has time to catch their breath, it’s an altogether more subtle best than that, there is definitely the hold-your-breath-and-hold-on-tight moments, see The Patient Ferris Wheel, Stay Lucky or a rendition of Great Expectations that sends the audience batshit, but the more affecting moments come courtesy of their softer songs, like lesser spotted E.P track Blue Jeans and White T Shirts, or a damn near hymnal Here’s Looking at You, Kid.

Unfortunately, a gig this size is going to attract some fair-weather fans there for a piss up and a gurgle along to “That one about Grand-mama’s Radio”, and there are some drunken troglodytes who completely kill holy moments like the end of The Backseats, but in the end, the fact that a band can have holy moments to miss is a fact to be celebrated to the ends of the earth. It’s not often that a band has the perfect mix of ability, style, song writing chops and dedication. But it looks like people have realised that The Gaslight Anthem are one of those once in a lifetime, bolt from the blue bands. And however loudly the Hammersmith crowd are cheering, that’s not London calling, that’s immortality calling.

Author: Will Howard