I’ve been listening to the Gaslight Anthem’s ‘Senor And The Queen’ EP a lot recently and it reminded me that I promised I’d reprint my review of their gig at the Ulster Hall last Christmas that originally ran in Fate magazine. So, needless to say, here you go. Photo by Mark@wakeuphate.com
The Gaslight Anthem at the Ulster Hall, Belfast
It must be pretty fuckin’ great being a member of New Jersey four-piece the Gaslight Anthem right now. Not content with counting their hero Bruce Springsteen as a fan, the blue collar reformed punks have released the album of the year in the utterly life affirming ‘American Slang’ and tonight’s first ever date with Belfast has been upgraded from the Mandela Hall to the much roomier Ulster Hall and they’re sold the place out too. Essentially, they’re the “little band that could” and this evening they take to the stage in front of thousands of Teddy Boys, punks, posers, greasers and everyone in between to deliver a master-class in misty eyed tales of romance and lost love.
Opening with ‘The Spirit Of Jazz’ the Gaslight Anthem’s sound is impeccable. Each instrument gets room to breathe and the boys are a finely tuned rock ‘n’ roll machine thanks to six months straight on the road. Tonight is their final date before they return home and while singer and unassuming style icon/tattooed dreamboat (at least according to the ladies this reviewer knows) Brian Fallon appears a little punch-drunk, he croons his way through ‘Boxer,’ and the perfect ‘We Came To Dance’ like a pro, marrying together his stage persona of punk rock everyman and lonely hearted Romeo perfectly.
“I love this place man,” he grins. “This crowd is full of so many good looking people. I try to keep myself good looking for you too. Can I come and live with one of you for a while….?” he asks before launching back into a beautiful rendition of ‘Stay Lucky’ while bounding around the stage, picking up his band mates and generally behaving like the best friend we’ve always wanted. Hell, they even throw in an understated cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ for the hell of it and it’s a gesture that might have passed some of the punters by, but it doesn’t go unappreciated from this reviewer anyway.
Speaking of gestures, support acts Chuck Ragan and Sharks join the band onstage for back-up vocals towards the end before stage diving into the faithful at the front and it’s a heart-warming show of solidarity to keep us toasty on this cold November night.
As the band wave their goodbyes and prepare to take some well earned time off, it strikes us that while it’s hard to pick a stand-out moment in a set that’s so strong, the one two punch of ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘the ’59 Sound’ is an unbeatable combination that could provoke a tear from Mr T himself. ‘Boomboxes And Dictionaires’ too was a rare treat, but the performance as a whole insured even the most fair-weather fan fell in love with Gaslight’s anthems tonight. Gig of the year without question.