The Gaslight Anthem electrifying in Jersey reunion
Along the coast of the Jersey Shore, Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony hosted hometown heroes The Gaslight Anthem, still riding the momentum off their excellent summer release, “American Slang.” Thanks to the perennial traffic that is the Garden State Parkway, I arrived just in time to see the headlining Gaslight on an outdoor stage, recalling the glory days of Skate and Surf.
The group quickly emerged to the tune of “Empire State of Mind” to a ravenous sold-out crowd, beckoning them to sing “Jersey” over Keys’ New York anthem. Opening with their newest album’s title track, “American Slang” soared with passion, as Fallon’s throaty vocals echoed with urgency over the song’s pulsating drums and gritty guitars. As the opener concluded, the venue exploded with applause and a smiling Fallon gleefully noted, “It’s good to be home.”
The group played over two dozen songs spanning their whole career, feeding off the punk energy of their first full-length, “Sink or Swim,” on tracks like “Boomboxes and Dictionaries” and “Red in the Morning.” The songs from Gaslight’s acclaimed 2008 release “The ’59 Sound” hosted some of the most memorable moments, including a rousing performance of “Old White Lincoln” and an electric closer on the Dickens-inspired “Great Expectations.”
The standout performance came on the fast-paced yet melancholic “The ’59 Sound,” where Fallon’s jaunty exterior belied the chilling subject-matter of the song, as he sang, “young boys, young girls / ain’t supposed to die on a Saturday night.” Like Arcade Fire, the group contradicts the grief and sorrows of its music with an almost palpable live energy and cathartic instrumentals, displaying an extraordinary ability to use sound as a solace and even a means of transcendence.
The crowd fed off of the group’s passion; zealous fans fist-bumped tragically off-beat, twenty-something year-olds giddily bounced like children on a trampoline, and the collective crowd threatened to overpower lead singer Brian Fallon’s voice. It became apparent that Gaslight’s audience was not ashamed to respond physically and emotionally to the music, which is perfectly fitting: Gaslight’s music resounds of unabashed nostalgia, oblivious to the smugness and elitism that populates pretentious indie-rock circles.
But it wasn’t until a bleached-haired fan gestured me for a high-five during the band’s abridged cover of Brand New’s “Jesus Christ” that I personally got it: the group’s honest and heartfelt demeanor elicits earnest and visceral reactions from the crowd, and soon enough I found myself a part of the collective whole.
So while much of America sat at home to watch this week’s edition of MTV’s Jersey Shore, a small part of Jersey experienced something special, something truly authentic and sincere. And when this fatuitous, Snooki-worshipping fad ends, maybe Jersey can regain the blue-collar reputation singers like Bruce Springsteen established and young talent like Gaslight upholds.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.