Ten quick things about Friday’s The Gaslight Anthem gig at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, Michigan (if you clicked this just to see the setlist, feel free to skip to the bottom):
1. This was a Gaslight-only gig. The Detroit date was added after the tour kicked off, which saved me a trip to Grand Rapids (they will be playing there on Monday, future dates can be accessed [here]). Initially, it was a bummer that neither supporting act was present, but singer/guitarist Brian Fallon announced that Hot Water Music were playing a gig a few blocks away and that we could get half-off tickets into that venue if we furnished our Gaslight ticket at the door. Plus, as you’ll read later, the Detroit gig was, without question, a one-of-a-kind show, so I wasn’t too devastated that it was just them.
2. Since Handwritten‘s release, especially when the band were hitting their TV gigs, I’ve read a lot of mostly-negative opinions about Ian Perkins playing live with the band. Questions like “Is that third guitar REALLY necessary?” and his uncredited addition to the band being deemed “excessive” and “superfluous” could be construed as plausible, but after seeing the band play as a quintet, I was thoroughly impressed by Perkins’ stage presence. Rocking his trademark black flat cap on his scruffy, chiseled-out-of-granite dome, Perkins appeared comfortable and confident, and even allowed himself to express some nervous laughter when Fallon poked fun at his Horrible Crowes counterpart and put the spotlight on him, saying on more than one occasion: “Wow, we haven’t played this one in a while… are you ready?” Plus, when Fallon was having guitar issues early in the set, the band’s distinctive loud guitars could still be raucous. In short: I believe Perkins enhances the band’s sound live.
3. In a similar vein, Fallon has recently taken much more flak than usual for having pitch issues live or singing in a lower key than on record. While there were plenty of instances where he played it safe vocally, especially on “The ’59 Sound” and “Handwritten”, he absolutely shined on tracks like “Keepsake”, “Meet Me By the River’s Edge”, “Mae”, and “The Diamond Church Street Choir”, and “Señor and the Queen”. He didn’t engage the crowd in-between songs a whole lot – he didn’t talk about songs, or how the tour was going, or anything like that (in my opinion, it was because he wanted to stay disciplined in playing the gig’s 29-song set in the allotted two hours) – but when he did, he smiled often and catered to those closest to the stage. His most humorous exchange was with an obviously-sloshed girl to his right: after she shrieked, “YOU’RE SO HOT!”, Fallon did his best Night at the Roxbury (“Who? Me? Him? Me? Him? Me?”). Turns out she was screaming for bassist Alex Levine, who casually shrugged his shoulders and deadpanned, “I’m married. Sorry.”
4. Drummer Benny Horowitz flashed his gap-toothed grin so often during the gig, I figured he’s watched a lot of “Live!” with Kelly Ripa the past couple weeks. Okay, fine, so this is an awful attempt at being topical with the Michael Strahan thing. The key here is that it was extremely palpable how much fun the band had performing, especially tracks we don’t normally see in their typical setlist (“1930”, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”).
5. Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust”, Nirvana’s “Sliver” (a bonus track from Handwritten), and an instrumental segue of Brand New’s “Jesus Christ” were part of the set. I’m personally not a Nirvana fan, but Fallon did a superb job nailing Kurt Cobain’s raspy snarl.
6. The band’s newest guitar tech, known only as “Joe”, had his work cut out for him. Fallon scrapped his guitar early in the set (specifically, during “Howl”) and seemed slightly annoyed by either the venue’s set-up or his pick-ups faltering, but he was able to shake it off and take the gig’s foibles in stride. He truly seemed to gain steam as the gig progressed. Overall, the band played a very crisp and engaging performance, with only one or two sloppy passages due to fatigue or technical woes. It was definitely a spectacularly loud gig, too, which was awesome.
7. Lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia endeared himself to the Michigan crowd by rocking a Red Wings cap for the first portion of the gig (side note: fuck you, Gary Bettman!) and an Olde English D for the encores. It was extremely humid in the venue, so why the guy chooses to wear long-sleeve T-shirts and zip hoodies indoors continues to mystify me, but he played a killer performance. Of all five members, he was most introverted on stage, but seemed to really take pride in his showmanship when playing their throwback material.
8. There were obvious longtime Gaslight fans in attendance, but the night’s biggest reaction was to “’45′”. The most passionate fans were up front and sang along to every song without fail, but hearing the whole venue sing, “Hey”, “There you go” and “Let her go” from the song’s chorus was chilling. Not sure how the new record is being received across American and world radio, but the local new rock alternative station has been playing this song regularly.
9. The band played two encores, which was a total swerve. I should have seen it coming (that’s what she said), though, because there was no way they wouldn’t have played “Great Expectations”, “We Came to Dance”, or “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” at this gig. “Here Comes My Man” was the lone glaring omission, but my guess is that they were content with leaving it out since they recently shot the music video for it.
10. Their best song of the night, by far, was “Blue Dahlia”, with a close runner-up going to “The Backseat”. It’s criminal that “Blue Dahlia” is only a bonus track from Handwritten.
The entire setlist was as follows:
1. “Boomboxes and Dictionaries”
2. “American Slang”
4. “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”
7. “Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?”
9. “Meet Me by the River’s Edge”
11. “Angry Johnny and the Radio” / A brief “Jesus Christ” (Brand New) interlude
12. “The Patient Ferris Wheel”
13. “The ’59 Sound”
14. “Film Noir”
15. “Señor and the Queen”
16. “Blue Dahlia”
17. “The Queen of Lower Chelsea”
18. “Mulholland Drive”
20. “The Backseat”
21. “State of Love and Trust” (Pearl Jam)
22. “Sliver” (Nirvana)
23. “Biloxi Parish”
24. “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts”
26. “We Came to Dance”
27. “The Diamond Church Street Choir”
28. “Here’s Looking at You, Kid”
29. “Great Expectations”
Show grade: B+
Obviously, my photos look like shit because I was too busy watching the gig, but some dude named Gene Schilling has some pretty badass photos [here].