In late-2007, the Gaslight Anthem’s debut full length, “Sink or Swim,” was released on XOXO Records — and it might as well have included a memo to music journalists reading: If you are going to write a review of any kind about this band you must include two things:
1.) You must mention, in a creative way, that Gaslight Anthem sounds like the lovechild of Against Me! and Bruce Springsteen.
2.) It is also obligatory to make a big deal out of the fact that GA hails from the blue-collar shores of Central New Jersey.
Tongue-in-cheek joking aside, it sure seemed like that was the case. In the last two years, GA has become the underground music industry’s new “it band.” They have gained adoration from fans and critics alike wherever they tour – which almost seems like everywhere, from European jaunts to many treks back and forth across North America.
When Gaslight Anthem made their first journey away from the eastern seaboard in support of “Sink or Swim,” the band’s four members seemed new to the touring rock ‘n’ roll scene, even if they had been a local-Jersey mainstay for years. Between every song, lead singer and songwriter Brian Fallon would head into intermissions with a smirk that evolved into a full-blown smile and, at times, continued into an innocent laugh for no apparent reason.
Fast-forward a few short years later to Friday night at the sold-out Gothic Theatre: The spontaneous smiles from Fallon where still there, but they weren’t as wide, and they weren’t as long. Completely understandable, knowing that the band has relentlessly been touring for the past couple of years (not to mention they’ve released an EP and full-length within that time). A click on the cluttered shows link on the band’s website doesn’t hint at that pace slowing anytime soon. The demeanor of the band seems to have morphed from, “Holy shit! We’re rockstars!” to “Ah ha, we’re going on tour again.”
Touring non-stop seems to have quite a few parallels to the blue-collar roots the band was escaping from. Or maybe it’s only now that they feel truly at home on the road. Perhaps this point is summed up best in the lyrics to their song “Film Noir.”
“Just trying to find a better life for me and my own/ Just some rest for these tired working fingers.” Fallon got exactly what he wanted with the first request, but unfortunately at the expense of the latter.
Most of the Gothic Theatre set was made up of 2008’s “59 Sound,” which didn’t seem to bother the largest Colorado crowd the band has ever headlined for. The title track from the aforementioned disc received the loudest applause and the most sing-along participation.
Andrew Brand is a Denver-based writer and Reverb contributor.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.