Sweating under the Gaslight: The Gaslight Anthem @ the Clubhouse in Tempe

If you or any of your friends question the quality of new music today, grab them (or yourself) by the ear and take ’em to see The Gaslight Anthem when they come to your town.

Tuesday was our first 100 degree day here in the Phoenix area, and the temp hadn’t cooled inside the small n’ sweaty Clubhouse in Tempe. It was steamy, it was sweaty, and the Gaslight Anthem cranked the heat up even further with their searing 90 minutes of uptempo Strummer/Boss-inspired rock n’ roll.

Standing a few feet back of stage left, it was impossible not to be swept right into the experience. First off, each of the four members of Gaslight are characters in their own right: drummer Benny Horowitz and his steady rapid-fire machine gun rhythms; lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia – bearded, hat low over his eyes and cocked to the right just a touch – alternately slumping over his guitar and thrashing about in short bursts; bass player Alex Levine, who reminds me of Paul Simonon, with his cool rock star bass pose: legs spread wide, bass slung low…

And then there’s Brian Fallon. White t-shirt, arms sleeved with ink, and a confident, strong demeanor on stage. Not cocky – completely gracious and interactive with the audience, actually. Example: during one of the encore tunes (“Angry Johnny And The Radio”, I think), he noticed one of the fawning girls in front of the stage looking especially thirsty (how I don’t know, a front man’s sixth sense?). He managed to gesture for a water bottle, sing the lyrics, play his guitar, and signal toward the girl – all in that smooth rock star swagger. Impressive!

Fallon is as magnetic and commanding of a front man as I’ve seen in a young band. But hell, if you’re raised on Strummer and the Boss, you’ve got two of the best to model yourself after.

The electricity that occurs when these four guys play a song – just incredible. The examples are too numerous to mention. But they had me completely by the balls during songs like “The ’59 Sound” and “The Patient Ferris Wheel”. When Rosamilia ch-ch-chunked his guitar to lead off “Ferris Wheel”, it reminded me of a chainsaw firing up – the FORCE of these guys playing together. There is a clear chemistry that these four share, and they need to keep this band together and evolving as this unit – at all costs.

Do I sound excited yet? Well, that’s what a hot night of real rock n’ roll does to me. Sounds so cliche, but some of ’em ring true.

The guys played the lion’s share of songs from their great label debut, The ’59 Sound. They also dipped back into their first full length, Sink or Swim, which I just picked up tonight on eMusic (I HAD to have these tunes). They wrapped up the night with a fired up take on the Tom Waits-penned “Downtown Train” – hardly recognizable compared to the original, save for the lyrics.

Taking in this amazing live band, and scanning the young crowd around me, fists pumped in the air and singing along to every song, it was all pretty damn refreshing, and renewed my spirit. Hell, it’s been a very spiritually renewing month of live music for me – Springsteen, Cockburn, the Gaslight Anthem – thanks April!

If you’ve been around here a while, you know full well of my adulation for John Graham Mellor, aka Mr. Joe Strummer. Well, on Sink or Swim, and played during the encore last night, there’s a tune that shows how in synch I am with Mr. Fallon and the boys. It’s a song called “I’da Called You Woody, Joe”…

And I never got to tell him so I just wrote it down,
I wrapped a couple chords around it and I let it come out,
When the walls of my bedroom trembled around me,
To this ramshackle voice over attack of a bluesbeat,
And a girl, on the excitement gang.
That was the sound of the very last gang in town.

Quick Primer: if you want very quickly to become a Gaslight Anthem fan, watch this January performance of “The ’59 Sound” on Letterman. Click the HQ button for some high quality action. You’re welcome.

Links: Official Site | MySpace | Slideshow from the Phoenix New Times


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