Sunday, March 29, 2009

'The Night Is Our Own': The Gaslight Anthem at The Trocadero, 3.28.09

On April 10, 1992, Pearl Jam played an 80-minute set at the small Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. The band’s debut album, “Ten,” now a multiplatinum classic, was just starting to really break huge, and the band was beginning its ascent to rock-and-roll megastardom. Three years later, they’d play a legendary headlining show at Soldier Field in Chicago.

I’m not saying The Gaslight Anthem are ever going to be that big, but, you know, it wouldn’t surprise me. They certainly held their own against the ghosts of rock stars past Saturday night at the Troc, and I wonder how much longer they’re going to be containable in a place that only holds a sold-out crowd of 1,200.

Gaslight are in the process of breaking huge in their own right. They’re on the cover of this month’s Alternative Press and in the past few months played both Conan and Letterman on late-night tellyvision. Frontman Brian Fallon has that it quality about him—an effortless, genuine charm that makes for stardom. And the best part is, he doesn’t seem to know it. As a kid from New Jersey who grew up coming to the Troc, he told us last night with genuine amazement how awesome it was to actually be on the stage instead of standing in front of it.

This is the band’s biggest headlining tour yet. It was quite a change from the show I caught last fall at the tiny Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach, in between opening dates for Rise Against. I don’t know if anything could ever top that experience, but I was pleased to see the band seemed, well, the same (in a good way), despite their burgeoning fame. Besides the bigger room and a few more lights, everything else about the show was all I love about them: three guitars, three mic stands, a drum kit, and one heck of a roster of songs to choose from. Unadorned, authentic, perfect.

Gaslight unleashed a blistering 18-song set Saturday, most notable for featuring every track off the band’s latest album, “The ’59 Sound,” which, you know, I kinda adore. I’m certainly not the only one—the crowd was off-the-wall berserk the entire night, singing along at top voice to every word.

Highlights were many, but I continue to be most impressed by how powerful “Miles Davis and the Cool” is in person. It’s a really, really good song on record, but they ratchet up the ending in concert to a massive release that could fill big arenas. The three songs they didn’t play off the album last fall—“Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” “Film Noir,” and “Meet Me By the River’s Edge”—were all tremendous, especially the latter, which is like baptism by fire.

But, really, I could say that about any of the songs performed Saturday night. They never let off the, er, gas. The run of “We Came to Dance”/“The ’59 Sound”/“Senor and the Queen”/“Casanova, Baby!” was heart-pounding great. The 75-minute set just flew by, leaving me stunned by the band’s sustained intensity, throwing their all into every cut. Even the quiet songs, like “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts,” were played with urgency; heaven help you on the big power tracks like "The Backseat" and "I'da Called You Woody, Joe."

The Gaslight Anthem give as rousing and heartfelt a show as I’ve ever seen. It's good for the soul. I just wonder if I'm gonna end up like one of the Pearl Jam fans from that show in '92: "Yeah, I saw those guys when …" Because there’s no telling where this band goes from here.

The Gaslight Anthem
The Trocadero

Great Expectations
High Lonesome
Old White Lincoln
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
We Came to Dance
The ’59 Sound
Senor and the Queen
Casanova, Baby!
Film Noir
Miles Davis and the Cool
Meet Me By the River’s Edge
The Patient Ferris Wheel
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
The Backseat

Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
Stand By Me (snippet)/I’da Called You Woody, Joe
Angry Johnny and the Radio/What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted (snippet)

Show Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

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