After performing a free acoustic set at Fells Point's Sound Garden record store on Friday, New Jersey-based quartet the Gaslight Anthem performed to a sold-out crowd at Washington's U Street Music Hall. Intern Jake Fewster had this report:
The U Street Music Hall lights went out and Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” blasted through the speakers as the Gaslight Anthem took the stage Friday night.
Just as the second verse began, the band crashed in with a single chord that rang out as the crowd erupted in excitement. The faint, melodic introduction to “Great Expectations” — the opening track to the band’s sophomore full length “The ’59 Sound” — could be heard amidst the raucous crowd noise.
As frontman Brian Fallon began the opening line, he was immediately joined by the sold-out crowd and hardly sang alone for the rest of the show. Fallon cracked a smile in delight each time the crowd emphatically shouted backup vocals right on cue.
The New Jersey rockers bring a welcome simplicity back to a genre that has long since gone the way of “Indie” and “Post-whatever.” A lean slice of Americana shines through the group's classic rock ‘n’ roll sound, but with the energy of a punk band and vocals inspired by Motown and, fittingly, Bruce Springsteen.
The band’s chemistry was present throughout the show, as changing time signatures and different lyrics and vocal lines were freely inserted into various songs.
Fallon sang two verses from Brand New’s “Jesus Christ” during the bridge of “Angry Johnny And The Radio” (from the band’s first full-length “Sink or Swim”) with ease and molded the lyrics perfectly to fit the tempo of the song.
The setlist covered favorites from all three of the band’s albums, the “Senor And The Queen” EP and included three songs from the new album “Handwritten,” which comes out July 24.
The band was tight throughout the set - which lasted more than an hour - and Fallon’s vocals showed no sign of fatigue as he belted out “The ’59 Sound” to close the show. The band played without breaks, backing up Fallon's earlier claims that the band didn't need an encore or other tired concert cliches.
“We’re just going to play our set, none of that encore nonsense. Leave that for Poison, you can go see them if you want,” said Fallon. “We’re just gonna play, OK?”
And play they did. The Gaslight Anthem puts on an energetic show with a fan-centric integrity that seems refreshing in today's music scene. For a rising band that's shared bills with Metallica, the Gaslight Anthem proved on Friday that it has not lost track of its roots.
Jake Fewster is an intern at the Baltimore Sun. This is his first concert review for Midnight Sun. Wesley Case edited this post.