Live Review: The Gaslight Anthem

James Redburn 2 April 2013

The Gaslight Anthem

London Troxy – 30 March 2013

Gaslight Anthem appeared a disparate bunch as they burst onto the stage at the Troxy, with front-man Brian Fallon casually sporting a flat cap and a checked shirt and drummer Benny Horowitz rocking the slightly dishevelled Dave Grohl look, long black hair down to his shoulders. The rather mean-looking skull-and-cross-bones logo, dramatically revealed as the band launched into opening track ‘High Lonesome’, also somewhat belied the brand of cheery pop-punk which Gaslight proceeded to douse us with.

The band were tight, and almost every song was a crowd-pleaser, with simple, often lyric-less melodies making it easy even for I, admittedly a new-comer to the New Jersey quartet, to engage with. There was a great vibe to the whole evening, with plenty of easy-listening tunes to hum and clap along to, complimented by the beautiful venue – the Troxy was, originally, a luxury 1930s cinema and still plays host to weddings, so the presence of a carpeted floor at a gig was a luxurious, if perhaps not entirely wise, surprise, considering the inevitable chucking of beer.

The most entertaining moment of the night was when Fallon invited a crowd-member up onto the stage, apparently in order to play his guitar part for one of the songs, but, perhaps inevitably, it went rapidly tits-up. The bloke was clearly pissed and had no idea how to play the song so, to try and save face, decided to rip his shirt off and then moon the 3,000 people in attendance.

I’m unsure whether or not this stunt was intended to self-deprecatingly illustrate the fact that most of Gaslight’s songs use pretty much exactly the same chords and, therefore, that any bloke who knows how to play bar-chords could feasibly join the band.

Now, I’m sure there are those who will scream that music’s not all about originality – people still love the blues and that’s been going for over half a century – but a little bit of rhythmical or textural variation might just have livened things up a bit. Song after song consisted of the same four-chord sequence, played with chugging rhythms and, if we were lucky, a guitar riff over the top. What this produced was a constant sense of average attempts at ballad-y stadium-fillers, which, after a while, soon became hopelessly predictable and, quite simply, boring.

The band were fun, bright and finished with a flourish of bass-guitar-smashing but they were let down by the repetitiveness of their songs and their questionable ability at choosing suitable audience members to bring up onstage.

James Redburn