It was not your typical early Monday night (03.04.13) in early March in Cleveland. Yes, it was cold. Yes, the Cavaliers played. Yes, the Cavaliers lost. But just a short walk away from the house that what’s his name used to own, the little band that could from New Jersey was busy making a name for themselves on the House of Blues stage.
Over nearly two hours, the boys from the Springsteen approved, The Gaslight Anthem entertained a sold out house with sing-along after sing-along of rough and tough punkish-rock songs about love, lost love, and the rest.
At around 10:00pm “Jump” by Van Halen hit the stereo and the boys took the stage to kick off a special night. The kids on the floor danced, moshed, and sang along to every song, while the stiffs in the seats sat with their arms crossed, looking disinterested and out of place. Perhaps they missed the memo that this is not a “plant your ass and sit” type of show. What happened on stage would have got the dead out of their graves, or at least tapping their feet underground.
From opening song “Howl,” The Gaslight Anthem hit full stride right out of the gate, even after this writer witnessed a not-so-great start two nights earlier in Chicago, and despite playing the night before in Detroit. “Casanova, Baby,” and “Old White Lincoln” kept the kids dancing below and the crowd singing along. The band spent time digging back into their latest release, 2012’s ‘Handwritten,’ with B-side “Blue Dahlia” and album starter “45.”
Playing all the standards for a Gaslight Anthem show means covering their arguably best record, ‘The ’59 Sound,’ and that they did with hits starting from “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” “The Patient Ferris Wheel,” and the very Springsteen-esque (although it can be argued many of these are “Springsteen-esque”) “Meet Me By The Rivers Edge.” The band also sprinkled in some gems from their first release, 2007’s ‘Sink or Swim,’ with “Wooderson,” a clear crowd favorite.
With so many sing-alongs, it’s really hard to pick out any particular crowd favorites. Sure, the rarities hit the spot, and so did new singles such as “Handwritten,” and “Here Comes My Man,” but when the guys finished the set with “The ’59 Sound,” “Desire,” and “Great Expectations,” easily three of the band’s best, they were just teasing the crowd by walking off the stage after an 80 minute set.
After a short five minute break backstage to take a leak and probably reload with some fresh beers, the boys hit the stage again. A little slow tune to get the encore started, “She Loves You,” and yet another crowd sing-along (as if nobody saw that one coming). Lead singer Brian Fallon then shared a quick story about buying a new guitar at a music store here in Cleveland, but their guitar tech not letting him play it, even after showing it off and getting the crowd wound even more up. The band then dove into an old song from a fan club single that a fan was requesting quietly in the front corner.
The tech finally caved and let Fallon use the new guitar on “American Slang.” The Gaslight Anthem dug deep into their catalog for a tune off ‘Sink or Swim’ with “I’da Called You Woody, Joe,” then gave way to a newer slow jam, “Mae.” After nearly two hours of crowd pleasing rock and roll with the slightest punk edge, crowd surfing, stage diving, laughing, and smiling on stage, truly enjoying ever minute of the show, Brian and his gang from Jersey said thank you and ended the show properly with yet another rocker, “Backseat.”
After nearly 120 minutes of rock n’ roll coming directly to Cleveland from the Jersey Shore, the boys from The Gaslight Anthem took their final bow and walked off the stage, all smiles. A very special night for all involved and in attendance at the sold out House of Blues. The little band that could, left everyone wanting more as they filled the lines at the merch table and filed out the doors, sweaty and beat up from dancing and singing along.