Published on The Fly online, October 2010
The Gaslight Anthem
HMV Apollo, London
With their New Jersey roots, The Gaslight Anthem have been compared to The Boss, but in all honesty they’re as much Bon Jovi as they are Bruce Springsteen. As their name implies, they deliver unapologetic singalong nostalgia-rock, and they do it with spunk and skill.
Earlier numbers such as ‘High Lonesome’ contrast with rockier tracks from new album ‘American Slang’, with a brief cover of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’ thrown in for good measure. Frontman Brian Fallon is visibly gleeful at playing the stage that saw Springsteen’s famous 1979 concert, and punctuates his rough, raw vocals with claps and grins. Though their sound, crisp on record, is somewhat muddied in the vast Apollo, the band – and particularly gifted drummer Benny Horowitz – keep things tight. But as Springsteen– or Bon Jovi – could attest, good arena rock is much harder than it looks. The two-hour set is distinctly one-paced and, stripped of their polished production, the band’s songs sound a little too alike. By the final half-hour some of the energy seems to have drained from all but the most enthusiastic fans. The Gaslight Anthem prefer their song structures simple, but a few drum or guitar solos would have helped them fill the room, and an acoustic number or two would have provided the variety sadly lacking from tonight’s performance.
Still, this is a band that knows what their fans want, and isn’t afraid to give it to them. Their no-frills presentation – a hangover from their punk roots – doesn’t quite do their epic imagery of cars and girls justice; but The Gaslight Anthem are just getting used to their status as hangar-filling rockers, and deserve a little time to adjust.