The Gaslight Anthem should be playing arenas. I was surprised when they announced the CIA (fuck you sponsors, it’s my city and I’ll call the venues what they should be called); I was worried they wouldn’t sell enough tickets, I was worried they would struggle to get the atmosphere right in such a big room, I was worried because Brian Fallon is an adorable, tattoo covered human and the thought of him being disappointed is horrible. I was worried but I needn’t have been, Gaslight deserve rooms this big.
Okay they didn’t sell it out, but with 3,000 odd people they didn’t do badly, and the people that were there got a treat. Having been influenced by (and relentlessly compared to) arena acts such as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam, they’ve clearly thought through their step up thoroughly. The light show and production is fantastic, matching the eclectic moods that the band is able to cultivate, seamlessly switching from bouncing and energetic to slow and haunting. The three guitars of Fallon, Alex Rosamilia and Ian Perkins sound huge and absolutely fantastic, each one adding a slightly different tone and layer to the mix; a pointless third (*cough* Foo Fighters *cough*) this is not. However, amidst this big sound and space the little Gaslight things are not lost, for example fans of the band will be happy to hear that the amps are still adorned with wrestling figurines and football scarves. The band has stepped up without losing what made them so special in tiny punk clubs.
The show isn’t necessarily perfect. For example most bands wouldn’t open up one of their biggest headline shows to date with a slow, eerie album track. Most bands wouldn’t use said headline show to deviate from the set list and play songs from their oldest album and EP rather than the lead single off their new album. Most frontmen wouldn’t ask the crowd to use the space between songs to tweet Noel Fielding because he’s been trying to meet him for years. It’s the kind of thing that puts people off the band. They don’t want to be cool and edgy with their brand of rock ‘n roll like The Arctic Monkeys or Royal Blood (no disrespect… okay a little disrespect to Royal Blood), they want to play the kind of music they like and have fun doing it. Fallon as a frontman is slightly awkward and silly with his humour (it’s no surprise he’s a Noel Fielding fan) so I can understand why he puts some people off, but essentially he’s just a fucking nice guy who writes fucking good songs; there’s not a hint of pretension there.
I get why people don’t like The Gaslight Anthem, I do. Yes, they could be more modern, they could use fewer references to Counting Crows and Jersey, they could promote themselves better; but then they’d just be another arena rock band. They could appeal to more people but there’d be fewer people who just fucking adore them. Yes you could go and see Springsteen or Pearl Jam and get something similar, but fuck that, I want to see The Gaslight Anthem. I didn’t grow up waiting for new Pearl Jam songs to be released, I grew up waiting for Gaslight and I’m incredibly happy they got a chance to play rooms as big as their sound deserves.
I’m also happy because if this turns out to be their only arena tour then they can look back and know they fucking smashed it.