Live In Vancouver (03/19/15)
The Commodore Ballroom
The Gaslight Anthem will forever be an enigma for me.
As one of my all time favourite bands, the New Jersey quartet shall always have a special place in my heart. When Sink or Swim came out, it rocked my soul in the same way Brian Fallon sings about The Clash in Ida Call You Woody, Joe. By the time The ’59 Sound was released, the band was on their way to stardom and they finally, for the first time, made a trek into Western Canada. With an injured ankle that was unable to support any semblance of body weight, I crawled my way to the venue to hear my own ramshackle voice bleed through the speakers of The Starlite Room.
Over the years, the band grew and expanded. Each passing release saw them experiment with their sound, broaden their horizons and introduce more influences than just The Boss into their unique blend of punk rock and roll. Their sonic growth also saw a diversity in their crowd – something seen as both a blessing and curse depending on who you asked.
The band kept touring but stopped hitting Canada as much – their entire touring cycle in support of Handwritten failed to see a single Western Canadian tour date. And so, their stop at the Commodore Ballroom Thursday night became the first time in around four years that The Gaslight Anthem graced a stage in front of my eyes.
Now I still love The Gaslight Anthem but a lot happens in four years – will they still blow me away the same way as before? What will the crowd be like? And, most importantly, how will the songs from Get Hurt translate live? The album was, after all, rather disappointing and had yet to really grow on me.
At the end of the day though, the best way to summarize the night was to say it was incredibly fun.
The crowd was diverse – the punks mixed with frat boys, the college couples with the mid-fifties couples, the stand-in-the-back and drink with the pogo-sticking hop-along singers . The large scope in fan base made for an interesting night in itself, but once The Gaslight Anthem hit the stage, everyone fell into their own groove.
With five albums, an EP, tons of bonus songs and a slew of seven and ten inches to their name, The Gaslight Anthem have a large catalogue to choose from and while they played 23 tracks during their hour and a half long set, there were definitely a few glaring omissions. Nevertheless – as Fallon once famously said – you’re paying to see the band at that moment, to see them play what they want and let them be the artists that you’ve come to see. They’re not there to play some fantasy wishlist of songs. So while it would’ve been nice to hear a few more of my favourites – honestly, Here’s Looking At You Kid should be a career staple for every one of their shows – the band still kept it pretty even. Five from Get Hurt and American Slang, six from Handwritten, and four from ’59 Sound made for the crux of the night; Say I Won’t (Recognize) from Senor and the Queen was a nice surprise and when they pulled out Wooderson, man on man did it feel good.
It seemed to be the songs from their middle period – The ’59 Sound and American Slang, that received the biggest reactions. Their choice to do Pink Floyd‘s Wish You Were Here in the middle of the set received mix reactions and Fallon’s signature awkward banter was comical and refreshing – seriously, I’ve never heard a man talk for five minutes about collecting Starbucks Coffee Cups before. They sounded spot on, the guitars were crisp, Benny Hororwitz killed the drums and the show was, as stated before, simply fun.
Was it the show I’ve been waiting to see for four years? Did I leave with goosebumps from hearing my favourite band play my favourite songs? Will it be one of those shows that I relive in my head over and over again? Did it live up to everything I wanted or put all my worries to rest?
But it was bloody fun, and I left sweaty and smiling – and at the end of the day, that’s what a good concert is all about.