The Gaslight Anthem at First Avenue, 2/28/13
The Gaslight Anthem
with the Bouncing Souls and Cory Branan
First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Dust off those newly collectible Nets snapbacks, gang, we had ourselves a double-header of Jersey pop-punk at the Mainroom last night. Fresh off of their major-label debut and fourth record in total back in the summer of 2012, the Garden State's lovable, tattooed world-beaters returned to our fair city to sell out the big room handily. Flogging their chart-topping new album Handwritten, this could very well have been the Gaslight Anthem's final stab at our most sacred venue before they're pressured to move up to stadiums. With their hometown heroes, the indomitable Bouncing Souls, along for a double headlining bill, the night felt like celebration of the kind of sincere, emotive songwriting both groups made the mark with, even if neither act seemed to give us 100 percent of their true powers.
Slideshow: The Gaslight Anthem at First Avenue
The Bouncing Souls celebrated their 25th birthday as a band last year, making their group officially older than most of the assembled Gaslight fans. Constant touring and more than 10 studio albums definitely seem to have taken their toll on the punk-rock journeymen, but their performance contained none of the world-weary cynicism of some of the genre's other legacy acts. Supporting their new album Comet, which pairs the classic Souls' sound with some more epic subject material and the occasional acoustic guitar, Greg Attonito and company made a solid case for their band's relevancy. While their once-thrashing stage presence has definitely mellowed out since the '90s, Pete Steinkopf and Bryan Kienlan still managed to prowl the stage like a couple of long-in-the-tooth road dogs, bringing a hint of menace to the group's sunny pop anthems. Special credit should go to drummer Michael McDermott, who anchored the band with a full-armed attack on his kit and solid pocket playing that never eclipsed the Souls' trademark hooks. If anyone in the group was showing his age, it was probably Attonito himself, who seemed content to sing in place for the entirety of the set, showing off none of the endearingly goofy dance moves of his youth. As usual with these kind of sets, the best moments came during classic Bouncing Souls songs such as "True Believers," which seemed to give both the crowd and the performers a jolt of energy.
Taking the stage to the lilting synths of Van Halen's "Jump" (always a crowd pleaser), the newly-minted five-piece version of the Gaslight Anthem pantomimed along to Diamond Dave for a second before tearing in to their '59 Sound-era rocker "High Lonesome." Now sporting a three-guitar attack thanks to the addition of touring guitarist and Horrible Crowes member Ian Perkins, the band tore into what would be a lengthy set, heavy on their new material.
Early fireworks came in the form of banger "American Slang" off of the band's third album of the same name, energizing the crowd thanks to the hearty sing-along chorus. Gaslight frontman Brian Fallon dropped a seemingly off-the-cuff Westerberg reference into the song's breakdown, which was a pleasant surprise despite the band's reputation as rock geeks. It quickly became apparent that the songs from Handwritten were the most exciting for Gaslight when "Biloxi Parish" brought back the swagger after a run of a few ballads from the earlier albums made things a little sleepy. Fantastic slow burners "The Diamond Church Street Choir" and "The Queen of Lower Chelsea" from American Slang got a somewhat offhanded treatment from the group, particularly Fallon, who looked a bit bored with those songs' doo-wopy melodies.