The Gaslight Anthem, Against Me!, Cory Brannan
October 15, 2014
It had been many a year since I’d seen Against Me! and I hadn’t seen Gaslight Anthem at all. Entering Wednesday at the “early” show, it was a nice to check in on how some roots punk bands have grown over the years. For some context, I last saw Against Me! at this venue back in support of Searching For a Former Clarity on the Fat 50 States tour. A lot of time has passed.
After missing Cory Brannan, unless half a song counts, I found my way across the venue for a decent sightline of Against Me! where their energy wouldn’t be lost. Always a band built around emotion, Laura Jane Grace and company didn’t disappoint. While I fell off as a fan sometime around Clarity…, I found my way back with the angry yet pointed Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The record is both intriguing due Grace’s transgender status, but also in capturing universal feelings of alienation and acceptance. Anyway, the big takeaway is that while the band and its membership have seen a lot of change in the past decade, the live show has not. Grace is still front and center, with her voice and her guitar as the primary weapons. The rest of the band are enthusiastic and fully engaged as well—say what you will about rotating memberships, but they are clearly there for the band and are not simply hired hands. The setlist was peppered from their entire past, opening with “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” lots of new material, and other songs from the major label era. A surprising observation was that the crowd, while likely there for headliners Gaslight Anthem, were the most into The New Wave material. While that was never my favorite period, it fill well in the larger catalog and it has an extra punch live. And to this listener Against Me! has always been about that punch. My greatest takeaway from the show, having seen the band play live several times a decade ago and not over the past few years, is how much they have grown. The stage presence and set were all very “veteran,” with the mark of a band who has fully established themselves and holds their own in any setting.
The Gaslight Anthem were the headliners, and while the audience was respecting and generally engaged all night, it was clear from the getgo that they were the main draw. To pull from my Against Me! closing, The Gaslight Anthem are also established and hold a firm presence about themselves. Their brand of Springsteen rock doesn’t hide its influences, and the band delivers a live show in step with that: it’s rock-first, comraderie second, fashion last. Sporting scally caps, bomber jackets, and ’59-ish haircuts, Brian Fallon’s band played song after song of anthemic singalongs with the crowd taking on as many vocals as the group. That’s not to say he pulled the old “hold out the mic” bit, the sound in the venue was strong and at all times Anthem’s big guitar rock and Fallon’s voice led the charge while most every person in the crowd was watching front and center, mouthing the words. The band pulls the audience in through their music, not through a stageshow—the same way they do on record. While the music can be called derivative at times, it is authentic and that shines through above all else. To keep the unavoidable Springsteenisms coming, while The Boss is championed as a working class mouthpiece, The Gaslight Anthem one-up the man by offering a show that the working class can actually afford to attend, grab a tallcan of local beer, and singalong and let loose after a rough day. In that sense, it was all the more fitting that this show took place in the early evening on a Wednesday, as the patrons needed to get back home to rest up for another day pounding the clock.
Photography by Loren Green