A cool breeze stumbled in off the boardwalk under the cover of night, soothing the capacity Stone Pony Summer Stage audience that busted the fenced in parking lot at its seams, spilling the tardy out on to Ocean Avenue. Why did those forced outside the compound stick around, peering through the slits in the fencing? Why were patrons of a restaurant located several hundred yards down the street jockeying for position on the building’s top floor? Why did the 4,000-plus in attendance erupt into an unholy chorus of joyous growls and squeals when the dimmed stage lights were taken down to blackness? Because the most anticipated rock show held in the Garden State since Bruce closed down that aging steel maiden out in the swamps was about to commence. The Gaslight Anthem had come home.
As the nine o’clock hour neared shadows of roadies continued to float across stage like spirits in the night. A dismembered fight-riff shot out of a guitar amp giving the riot something to chew on. This motley crew of young punks, older hippies, fish net clad women, Springsteen enthusiasts, friends, family, Jerseyites, and countrymen, fired back with a booming “Ole” chant. Finally, the lights flickered three times, Jay-Z’s “Empire State Of Mind” pumped out of the speakers, and that long burning fuse struck the powder keg of a crowd. A large explosion lit up the skies over Asbury Park that night, no casualties, just elation.
Gaslight ripped into us with “American Slang,” the band’s hit single off its 2010 album of the same name, and when the first track of this 26-song marathon had concluded, front-man Brian Fallon, dressed in worn blue-jeans and a faded navy Derek Jeter t-shirt, spoke sincerely but not in length.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Fallon to his disciples. They called back in a roar and it was on to the next one.
After a hard rocking rendition of “Old White Lincoln” the front-man added fuel to an audience that was already on fire.
“There’s some nice weather tonight. I heard a storm was supposed to come through here,” said Fallon innocently before adding, “but it must’ve heard a bunch of Jersey kids were coming out and stayed the hell away.”
The big rumor surrounding this show was that Springsteen would join Gaslight on stage as sort of a passing of the torch, from one musical Jersey giant to the up and coming. When Fallon strummed the opening chords to “The ’59 Sound” we all expected The Boss to saunter out of the shadows playing his golden Fender in unison, as was the case last year during the Glastonbury Festival in England.
But he never came, and maybe that was for the best. Music journalists, including this one, have been comparing The Gaslight Anthem to Bruce for years now, much to the chagrin of the majority of its members. And it has occurred to me that we base too much of that evaluation on the home state. If anything Gaslight’s sound is more comparable to Social Distortion with a definite influence from The Clash and Bouncing Souls. So Fallon’s lyrics are deep, beautiful, and poetic, and the band’s songs have this stunning realism about them. You know who else writes that kind of music? Every great band and artist. That’s how they become legends. I think it’s about time the music listening world separates these two entities. The Gaslight Anthem has the potential to grow into something wonderful if we don’t smother it to death in prejudgment.
The constant “Brucing” the band has received throughout this tour was much less noticeable at home, but not completely subdued, and no more evident than after “Film Noir.” After years of hearing the call, Gaslight brushed it off and trudged deeper into its epic setlist.
Fallon addressed the Jersey faithful again before breaking into the unity tune ”Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts,” this time a bit more long winded and just as genuine.
“This is the song we take all over the world to tell them about you guys,” said Fallon in a gravelly tone. “There’s people getting married to it and others breaking up to it. It’s a powerful song, and it’s for you.”
Toward the back end of the set the New Brunswick foursome tore through the angry, .44 caliber, punk-pleaser “Red In The Morning.” Bruce never drove away from the scene of heartbreak at this speed.
Gaslight closed out its set with the opening salvo off The ’59 Sound, the fan favorite, “Great Expectations.” The performance left us wishing for more, but not wanting, I mean, what more could we ask for? How about a five-song encore?
The band cruised through three tracks before slowing the tempo with the tender love song “Here’s Lookin’ At You Kid.” I haven’t witnessed a song induce an outpouring of love and affection of this magnitude since I saw Bruce and the gang perform “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” for 80,000 people at Giants Stadium.
Behind the Summer Stage a couple of flannel clad rockers slow danced in the shadows, their foreheads pressed against one another, literally lost in each other’s eyes for three and a half minutes. Benny Horowitz, the band’s drummer, silently traded lip synced verses with a pair of his best friends that stood off in the wing. The audience knew the song’s every word.
Love, affection, peace, and the appreciation of all The Gaslight Anthem has to offer engulfed The Stone Pony’s Summer Stage on this cool August night. Believe me when I say, memories of this show will live on for years to come.
- American Slang
- The Diamond Church Street Choir
- Old White Lincoln
- Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
- Senor And The Queen
- Bring It On
- Miles Davis And The Cool
- The ’59 Sound
- The Spirit Of Jazz
- Angry Johnny And The Radio
- Film Noir
- Old Haunts
- Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
- We Came To Dance
- Red In The Morning
- Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
- The Queen Of Lower Chelsea
- Stay Lucky
- Boomboxes And Dictionaries
- Great Expectations
- We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner
- Here’s Lookin’ At You Kid
- The Backseat