Local,  Rock

Review: The Gaslight Anthem at Martini Ranch, Scottsdale

For the second time in just 6 months, the Phoenix area was treated last night to the bare-bones rapid-fire majesty that is the Gaslight Anthem. The guys have been touring their asses off in 2009, with two swings around the US, and a successful European festival season highlighted by a couple of guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen on “The ’59 Sound” (at Glastonbury and Hard Rock Calling). Their work ethic is paying off, it seems. The buzz continues to build, and I felt a noticeable difference in the vibe between last night’s show at Scottsdale’s Martini Ranch, and April’s show at Tempe’s Clubhouse. The atmosphere felt more electric last night – the crowd was alive, vibrant, singing along, pumping their fists; and the venue is more colorful and inviting than the dungeon-like Clubhouse. It was my first show there, and any reluctance I had about venturing into the belly of the beast that is Scottsdale was quickly put to rest.

My brother and I (6’3″ and 6’4″) respectively, got a good position stage right – much to the disappointment of those behind us. Sorry folks, we staked our claim. Move along, nothing to see here.

The set was standard fare for the Gaslight Anthem. That’s no knock on them – it’s just that with two full albums and an EP to draw from – you have a good idea which songs are coming. But there’s nothing standard about their performance. The charisma and charm of front man Brian Fallon leads the charge…

They played all but one song off of their 2008 breakthrough The ’59 Sound (no “Meet Me By The River’s Edge” their most direct tribute to the Boss), and they drew a handful from their debut Sink or Swim, and their EP Senor and the Queen. I’m most familiar with The ’59 Sound, and what was astounding to me was how familiar the crowd was with their older material. I love the fact that there’s a fan base like this locally – lingering under the radar – and emerging for great live experiences like this.

Sound-wise, my only gripe is that Fallon’s mic could have been louder and more crisp – the vocals weren’t too clear at times. Then again, we were in front of the bass amp, so Alex Levine’s bass lines were washing over us pretty intensely.

The highlights for me came in the form of “The ’59 Sound”, which really turned me on to the band when they performed it on Letterman early this year; the “Stand By Me” intro into “I’da Called You Woody, Joe”, which is Fallon’s ode to Joe Strummer and the Clash; I love the driving force of “The Patient Ferris Wheel”; and one of Gaslight’s few ballads, “Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid”. I know it’s hard to pull off live, but I wish Fallon would sing it in the lower register like he does on the album – it’s such a bittersweet tune.

Gaslight’s set clocked in just short of 90 minutes, and as they wrapped it up with “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Dinner” , the final chant resonated with me: “It’s all right, man / I’m only bleeding, man. / Stay hungry, stay free, And do the best you can.” It sums up what I love about the band, and the artists they draw inspiration from – Strummer & Springsteen in particular – that in this imperfect and often unjust world in which we live, the important thing is not to let it get you down. Stay positive, care for those around you, and “stay hungry, stay free, and do the best you can.”

The Gaslight Anthem continue their hectic touring schedule. If you’re in North America, odds are they’ll be in your neighborhood by the end of the year. Check out the tour dates here. Check out a great band on an upward trajectory. There are great things to come from these guys.

Quick Notes:

  • It was great meeting two friends from my Twitter existence: Drew (@azecho) and Dave (@dfactor). I met Drew when a 300 lb drunk was shoving himself through the crowd, and pushed Drew right into me. That guy cannot be feeling great today.
  • I would have posted some pics, but they didn’t turn out post-worthy at all. The only decent one was of the hot Gaslight roadie.
  • I didn’t mention the opening acts, Gaslight’s tour mates the Loved Ones and Death by Murder. It was my first exposure to either band. I’d have gone more into their sets, but I’m not familiar at all with them, so I’ll spare you. Enjoyable stuff, though.

Set List – 9/15/2009
Martini Ranch
Scottsdale, AZ

High Lonesome
Casanova, Baby!
Old White Lincoln
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
The ’59 Sound
We Came To Dance
Film Noir
Miles Davis & The Cool
The Patient Ferris Wheel
Stand by Me intro >
I’da Called You Woody, Joe
Angry Johnny And The Radio >
If I Had a Boat [Lyle Lovett]
Great Expectations
Here’s Lookin’ At You, Kid
The Backseat


Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts
Wherefore Are Thou, Elvis?
Senor and the Queen
We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Dinner

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