Sunday, 21 October 2012

858 THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM, Blood Red Shoes, Dave Hause, Birmingham O2 Academy, Saturday 20 October 2012

Another trip up to the now easy-to-find relocated Birmingham Academy, this time to see New Jersey guitar heroes The Gaslight Anthem, who have delivered yet another superb album this year in “Handwritten”. No great departure for them, this; as ever, it falls midway between the bleeding-raw emotional yet shiny post-Millennial punk rock of Jimmy Eat World, and the blue collar working man’s anthemic rock of Bruce Springsteen. However, powered by their most obvious single yet, the titanic “45”, this album is a real top-down rocker with some corking tuneage, so hearing these songs “live” should be a hot, sweaty and all-inclusive full-on “rock” experience in the large but swiftly-sold out Academy.

So I drove up under brilliant red skies, then picked through Birmingham traffic to park up at 7.20 in the Mailbox car park just up the road. Hit the already rammed full venue midway through first support Dave Hause, evidently a Noo Joisey buddy of The Gaslights, who had his own backdrop (!) and a Dashboard Confessional style angst-ridden and impassioned delivery, whether on acoustic or electric guitar. I liked his comment about the previous night’s gig (“We were in Scotland last night and I totally called it England!”) as well as his penultimate number “100K”, an in-your-face Billy Bragg “Spy Vs. Spy”-era clone song, with a Hold Steady “Constructive Summer” lyrical steal, which was the best of a fine warm-up set which got the crowd fired up and clapping. Good for you Dave!

Main support Blood Red Shoes followed in short order, a 2-piece featuring a willowy raven-haired female guitarist and a hard-hitting and wildly flailing (like Animal from the Muppets!) drummer bloke who alternated on call and response vocals, and who made a powerful noise for a 2-piece. Fourth number “This Is Not For You” featured a Nada Surf “Stalemate” strumalong opening riff, which descended into thrilling and visceral noise, typical of their set. In parts Emo/ Placebo-esque, also featuring some Pixies/Muses jagged noise and Banshees atonal vocals, this was a dramatic, edgy, noisy and cacophonous set. Set closer “I Wish I Was Someone” was a fitting and representative thrill-ride finale. Great stuff!

I kept my spot, stage left on the outskirts of the dancefloor, already cramped and sweaty, as the roadies – who with black t-shirts, tattoo sleeves and flat caps seemed interchangeable with the band! – set up. The Gaslight Anthem strode on shortly after the lights went black at the appointed hour of 9.15, easing into a low-key yet moody and atmospheric opener “Mae” which built to a crescendo, the climax of which saw their backdrop unfurl, in a pure touch of drama, as they shifted gear seamlessly upwards into “The 59 Sound”, and the place exploded. Gaslight vocalist Brian Fallon, a Jimmy Darmody lookalike if he’d found guitars instead of guns, then led the band through a raw-boned and ragged (the occasional bum note actually adding to the vibe), yet very well-paced “light and shade” set, with sozzled bar-room singalongs interspersed with the balls-out rockers. A debate about out of key songs (“Street Fighting Man” apparently being Fallon’s favourite), culminated in him shouting, “gimme a bass, I don't know how to play that [either]!” for “Cowgirls”, before the rip-roaring anthemic “45”, casually thrown in early doors, raised the roof with its’ soaring chorus.

Fallon painted pictures with his lyrics throughout, of vignettes of Jersey life, bleak, industrial and mundane yet with an underlying “common people” hope and dignity, and this knowledgeable crowd lapped it up, singing most words to most numbers. He also proved a nice guy, handing water out to the sweaty mosh crush, although “American Slang”, for me the soaring set highlight, saw him challenging us; “best crowd in England? We’ll see!” He introduced a ferocious “Sliver”, the old Nirvana number, with, “This was big for us,” then a Costello-like “Queen Of Lower Chelsea” shifted gears again and diffused the frenzied mood.

“How many times do I say “radio” in this set? I think I’m going to exchange it for “nonplussed” instead”, Fallon announced before set closer “Great Expectations” which was a jagged punk thrill, bookending a startlingly swift 1 hour 30 set. Then a U2-like moment as the crowd spontaneously sang the hook to “Here Comes Your Man” before the band returned for the encore, and, wide-eyed with wonder, gave the crowd their wish, deferring to the still-raucously singing crowd for the hook. “Backseat” ended a breathless and breathtaking set of pure elemental rock’n’roll from a band destined for bigger stages before too long. Hit the road for a tired journey home after grabbing a set-list and getting tour guitarist Ian Perkins to scribble his “John Hancock” on it. However, no doubt about it - The Gaslight Anthem delivered tonight, big time!

1 comment:

  1. I meant to go to this gig... but totally forgot about it. Gutted!

    Looking forward to your review...