When I first heard that The Gaslight Anthem would be performing at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, I was extremely excited. After learning that Against Me! and Jimmy Eat World were the opening acts, I was ecstatic. Two of my favorite bands were performing with a band that I absolutely loved in college (Jimmy Eat World), how could I turn down the opportunity to see this show?
On a rainy Saturday night in New Jersey, my uncle, cousin, and I met up at the PNC Bank Arts Center to take in an evening of exceptional music. It was one of the last concerts of the year for the Arts Center (if not the last) and the weather was not very cooperative. Hard driving rain, winds, and chilled temperatures made the tailgating a lot less fun, but we battled the elements like true champs.
Once inside, we were able to take cover in the seated section of the amphitheater, no longer having to worry about the rain. At that point it was just the wind and the chill. Against Me! was the first band to appear on the stage and I was extremely excited to see them live for my first time. I had been listening to their records for years, but never had the opportunity to take in one of their shows. And they were supporting an amazing new release as well, so even though I knew their set was going to be limited, I felt certain that they were going to perform with boundless energy and gusto.
Unfortunately, my excitement did not match that of the band. To say Against Me! was a disappointment would be a huge understatement. They were borderline terrible on that stage. Laura Jane Grace gave almost no acknowledgment to the fans that had gathered to see them. She sang to the stage floor, mumbled between songs, and basically appeared like she did not want to be there at all. The rest of the band followed her lead, and after 30 minutes, I was actually glad to see them go, because their live set was ruining my image of them. It was a terribly disappointing performance.
Jimmy Eat World was up next and their performance was much better. By the time they appeared, the amphitheater was packed. I did not realize how beloved Jimmy Eat World was. I thought they were a band that, like me, most people forgot about after 2002. That was obviously not the case as most of the audience was on their feet singing every word to every song for the duration of their set. It was a nice moment to witness. Their performance was great, and I would certainly welcome the chance to see them in concert again.
After Jimmy Eat World, it was time for the main event. The Gaslight Anthem is a band that I have enjoyed for years. From the moment I heard the magnificent American Slang record, I was hooked. And in September of 2014, I finally had my first opportunity to witness the band in concert. They were touring in support of their latest record, Get Hurt, a delightful album that I had listened to on a constant loop since it was released. I was anxious to see some of those songs live and witness The Gaslight Anthem on stage.
The band launched the night with the heavy, dark, lead track from Get Hurt, “Stay Vicious.” It sounded brilliant live and was a terrific way to start the evening. Classic tracks and new favorites were how The Gaslight Anthem began their first ever performance at the PNC Bank Arts Center. “Stay Vicious” led to “Wooderson” from the band’s first album. Two songs later, one of my favorite Gaslight Anthem songs was performed, the classic “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.” It was an amazing rendition and it made my night.
Perhaps it was because it was their hometown show, or perhaps the band is just that good live, but the performance given by the Gaslight Anthem on that raw evening was astounding. It was obvious that the band is a well crafted touring machine that honed their capabilities to perfection. From the setlist selection, to the interaction with the crowd, to their stage presence, The Gaslight Anthem was everything that I had hoped for and more.
Lead singer Brian Fallon was in all his glory and said just as much too. He was amazed that his band was performing at the same venue he witnessed his first concert and made the decision that he wanted to be a musician. He talked about watching Depeche Mode from one of the seats and how it changed it his life for the better. Later in the night he acknowledged the rumors that Bruce Springsteen was going to join them onstage, and put that rumor to rest stating that no one else was coming out. And that was just fine with me. As far as I was concerned, no one else needed to be on that stage. The Gaslight Anthem was entertaining enough in their own right.
The encore consisted of some of the best songs in the bands catalog. It started with “The Navesink Banks,” a beautiful ballad from their debut album, Sink or Swim. Fallon told the back story of the song and then mesmerized the crowd with its performance. Classic songs “The ’59 Sound,” “Great Expectations,” and “1930” were all pulled out for the encore, much to the delight of the near sold out crowd. The last song of the evening was a brilliant cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and The Gaslight Anthem just crushed it.
When their night was over, the crowd was on their feet, giving the band a much deserved standing ovation. The Gaslight Anthem did not disappoint, and my first time witnessing them live was fantastic. It cemented their status as one of my favorite bands and forced me to make a promise to myself that I would see this band in concert again. I haven’t had the opportunity yet, but I’m keeping my eye on their touring schedule and I will get to another one of their shows soon. How could I not? Seeing The Gaslight Anthem is pure euphoria.
Rollin’ And Tumblin’
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Underneath The Ground
The House Of The Rising Sun
We Came To Dance
Break Your Heart
The Navesink Banks
The ’59 Sound
Blue Jeans & White T-ShirtsBaba O’Riley