It’s been a blast watching The Gaslight Anthem slowly build their brand. From playing basements in New Jersey to sharing the stage with Springsteen in London, they’ve come a long way. They took the stage last night at the Upstate Concert Hall (formerly Northern Lights) on the eve of the release of Handwritten, their forth studio record and tore the room apart.
I intentionally dodged the leaks and “stumble upon” previews for the new record in hopes of hearing some of it for the first time live. Brian Fallon and Co. didn’t disappoint, as they launched into their new single “45” two songs into the set. They blended a few new ones into the mix as the night went on. “Handwritten”, “Mulholland Drive” and “Biloxi Parish” punctuated a show full of hits from The ’59 Sound and American Slang.
The Gaslight Anthem is a rock band that is yet to write and record their masterpiece, even though fans will argue that The ’59 Sound is the bands mightiest work. There’s undeniable talent spilling from Fallon’s pen. He’s dialed into his sound which is heavily rooted in the hard-luck working man aesthetic of his Jersey heroes, specifically Bruce and Bon Jovi.
That’s not to say Fallon is a one-trick writer, considering the sonic change that came with 2010’s American Slang. That record took listeners further from the riffing and toyed with sounds and influences ranging from Tom Petty to Tom Waits. With Handwritten Fallon has promised a more focused record returning Gaslight to their louder, heavier side.
Sound problems aside, which is par for the course at a venue that’s been re-constructed, expanded and tinkered with in every way possible, the set was fantastic. The band was powerful and playful, Fallon telling stories and doing his spot on Springsteen impression between monster rockers that shook the crowd. The room was packed from front to back. Smiling faces sang along, danced and cheered for an encore that ended with a raucous “’59 Sound”. Fallon is a masterful leader, a young man with an old soul. And his band is finally starting to catch up.
It was a fitting show for the night before Handwritten hits stores, a record that will certainly establish The Gaslight Anthem as one of the best young rock and roll bands in America.