Back in March of this year, New Jersey punk rock and rollers The Gaslight Anthem kind of blew up the internet (well at least the small segment of the internet that follows them) with news that the band was coming out of their self imposed hiatus and would be hitting the road again as well as having plans to start work on new material. The four original band members—Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilia, Alex Levine, and Benny Horowitz—along with touring member Ian Perkins, had decided after their year long tour back in 2015 behind their fourth studio album, Get Hurt, that the band would be shutting it down (at least temporarily). Needless to say, fans of the band were crushed.
Then in 2018 the boys announced that they would be hitting the road for a very limited number of shows to celebrate their seminal ‘59 Sound album’s 10th anniversary. Initially it was going to be a one off show at NYC’s Gov Ball but that soon morphed into a string of shows mostly in the UK, the northeast US and Chicago. Unfortunately when that tour ended it became pretty clear that the band would once again be going their separate ways. All four original members had their own things going on and primary songwriter, singer and guitarist, Brian Fallon, often made it clear in both interviews as well as his onstage banter that the band would not be getting back together anytime soon. I even recall one comment which he made at a solo show at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ how he would probably be gray and bald by the time Gaslight got together again.
So when the news of a tour and new material was announced it was no surprise that TGA’s legions of fans became somewhat frenzied in terms of where they were playing, how were tickets going to be procured and which shows would be destination events. In the original announcement there was no NYC show, with the closest being Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Arts Center, a rather LARGE seated tin shed of an outdoor amphitheater. Roughly a month or so after the initial run of shows went on sale, it was announced that TGA would be playing Pier 17 in New York City along with Brooklyn’s favorite DIY son Jeff Rosenstock.
Let me first say that Pier 17 is certainly a beautiful location to see a show. With the breathtaking view of the Brooklyn Bridge behind the stage, both bands wisely elected to not use their normal stage backdrops. That being said, it is a significantly frillier venue than what Gaslight or Rosenstock normally play. Rosenstock, jokingly after hitting the stage with his song “USA” exclaimed to the crowd that he was thrilled to be back in New York but “I apologize for being so bougie.” Yes, indeed, this was quite a jump from the days of playing places like Silent Barn and Trans-Pecos in Rosenstock’s case or even New Brunswick, NJ’s iconic Court Tavern in Gaslight’s case. Nonetheless, Jeff and his band of John DeDomenici (bass), Kevin Higuchi (drums), Mike Huguenor (guitar) and Dan Potthast (keys, acoustic guitar & sax) ripped through their set with reckless abandon. While the set obviously couldn’t be as extensive as usual, being as Rosenstock was the opener, we were still treated to a set which while heavy on his latest album No Dream, and hit on material from each of his earlier offerings (with the exception of his first solo LP, I Look Like Shit).
Jeff Rosenstock at Pier 17
Gaslight Anthem took the stage around 8:20, jumping right into it with what has been the regular show opener “Have Mercy,” a bonus track off of the deluxe version of 2014’s Get Hurt. Now let me get this out of the way right now: As excited and anxious as Gaslight’s fanbase was when the tour was initially announced, is exactly how critical, disappointed and downright fickle many of the more vocal fans have been throughout the tour thus far. “The sets are too short”, “the sets are too mellow,” “the sets aren’t varied enough,” “Brian talks too much,” etc. These comments have been flooding the Gaslight facebook groups, Twitter and Reddit since the tour began. And these are the band’s most vociferous fans by the way. Unfortunately, I exposed myself to too much of this stuff prior to the show, so I came into the evening with jaded and confused eyes.
Next up was one of my favorite songs off my favorite album of theirs, “Old White Lincoln” from ‘59 Sound. With its classic line “you in your high top sneakers and your sailor tattoos” along with Alex Rosamilia’s cascading guitar fills it has always made this one of the band’s quintessential songs to my ears; to me it almost perfectly defines the band. Well at this show the boys crushed this one. Was the tempo slowed down compared to the album? Yes, but damn, it sounded great! Following that was another bouncing rocker, this one from American Slang, “The Sound Of Jazz.” Using the line about meeting on the New York streets as a segue, Fallon would go on his first extended monologue of the evening waxing poetic about how beautiful the view from the stage was, with the downtown Manhattan skyline in front of him and the Midtown version behind him. It was around now where he made the first self deprecating joke about mistakenly thinking the Empire State Building was in front of him (downtown). This same joke would be repeated a couple of times throughout the evening.
The next couple of songs were a mix of tunes both slow and uptempo from Get Hurt and Handwritten. It was during this section of the show where we did get some more of Brian’s rambling. This time about drummer Benny Horowitz having celebrated a past Rosh Hashanah at Jeff Rosenstock’s house. Not to be one upped, Fallon made it known that all he ever got to do was go to a BBQ at Bruce Springsteen’s, who, by the way was not going to show up this evening. And no, there would be no refunds for disappointed fans. No malice intended whatsoever, it really did come across quite hilariously.
The Gaslight Anthem at Pier 17
We would get a ‘sign’ request next. (NOTE: The band had made it known that they would not respond to any vocal requests during any of their shows. However, song requests presented via a sign or poster, preferably one with lots of glitter would be entertained). This evening’s sign request was “Blue Dahlia,” another tune from Handwritten.
After doing “Halloween” (along with a somewhat bizarre Jeffrey Dahmer intro) the show really began to get interesting. With a piano intro from Bryan Haring (who is helping out on this tour with keyboards and backup vocals) that was both familiar yet uncertain, the band went into Mother Love Bone’s ”Chloe Dancer” which they would segue right into Pearl Jam’s “State Of Love and Trust.” It was during SoLaT that one could notice Fallon’s throat issues for the first time that evening, which had previously caused the band to have to cancel their show a couple of weeks back in Denver. Honestly though, the rasp in Fallon’s voice actually sounded great on this one since Eddie Vedder’s original vocals are pretty scratchy to begin with.
From this point on the show truly took off. Where the first part of the show arguably might have been a bit disjointed and lacking in flow, the second half was pure unadulterated Gaslight New Jersey rock and roll. Coming out of the two grunge songs, Fallon and crew offered up a trio of songs from ‘59 Sound, “The Patient Ferris Wheel,” “Miles Davis and The Cool” and “Film Noir,” followed by the oldest song of the evening, crowd favorite, “Blue Jeans and White T Shirts” from the 2008 EP Señor and the Queen
“Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts” live in 2012
Finishing off the evening, the band offered up another half dozen or so of their choicest and most raucous tunes from a cross section of their albums. The crowd which for most of the evening had been relatively subdued (at least in comparison to what I’ve experienced at past Gaslight shows) but were totally into things at this point. With a circle pit to my right, and everyone singing and jumping up and down all around me, it finally felt like TGA was back. The night finished off with a killer version of “‘59 Sound.” With Fallon’s feedback laced behind the head guitar solo coupled with Rosamilia’s perfectly placed arpeggios and Horowitz’s and Levine’s thundering backbeats on drums and bass, the band couldn’t have ended the evening any better.
With that conclusion (no encore), I for one, knew The Gaslight Anthem as a band was indeed back. Was it the best show I’d ever seen from them? No, probably not. Have they slowed down the pace on much of the material? Absolutely. But for fucks sake, who amongst us hasn’t slowed down in the last 15 to 20 years? Speaking for myself, I know that after a couple of go ‘rounds in the circle pit I need to pull out and recover. I can only imagine what its like attempting to put out 100% on stage for an hour and a half, night after night is like for these guys. So if Fallon goes off on one of his patented rambles as a possible means to let their bodies catch up throughout the evening, so what? If they have to slow some songs down just a bit, so what? Let’s all remember the feeling of elation we felt back in March when we heard the band was getting back together. We’re all older and maybe a little wiser but lets not forget that most importantly we’re all here. Gaslight Anthem is here again with us and to this we should all be jumping up and down yelling and screaming lyrics right along with them.
Scroll down for setlists, fan shot videos and pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Jeff Rosenstock setlist: USA, Pash Rash, Scram!, Wave Goodnight to Me, State Line, All This Useless Energy, Festival Song, 9/10, N O D R E A M, Monday At The Beach, Honeymoon Ashtray, Nausea, You In Weird Cities
Gastlight Anthem setlist: Have Mercy, Old White Lincoln, The Spirit of Jazz, Mae, Get Hurt, Stay Lucky, Blue Dahlia, Halloween, Chloe Dancer (Mother Love Bone cover), State of Love and Trust (Pearl Jam cover), The Patient Ferris Wheel, Miles Davis and the Cool, Film Noir, Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts, Stay Vicious, American Slang, Great Expectations, National Anthem, 45, The ’59 Sound
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM