There was absolutely no better way for Vintage Vinyl, one of the most iconic music stores in New Jersey, to celebrate their 35th year anniversary than to have local natives, The Gaslight Anthem, stop by to perform. When I first saw the announcement for this, I said to myself, out-loud, “This is fucking perfect.”
An hour early, and the line already wrapped around the back to the side of the plaza. But once the doors opened, everyone filed into place and stood patiently. The young, the old, and everything in between filled each row of records on the sales floor.
After everyone was settled in, store owner, Rob Roth, approached the stage and thanked us all for coming to celebrate their anniversary as well as being there to see The Gaslight Anthem. As he walked off, Gaslight walked on with these giant grins on their face like they were shamelessly happy to be at their old stomping grounds.
Then seconds before the band had a chance to speak, that person screamed out, “I fucking love this band.” We all automatically know who that person is at every show we attend. They always feel the need to yell out every song from the band’s b-side record, or worse, only songs off their new album and all their hits. Lead singer, Brian Fallon, replied with an instinctive wit stating, “I would say you were at the wrong show if you didn’t.” They guys then began their set with the audience still laughing.
I instantly fall in love with Gaslight over and over again whenever I hear their music. And since I haven’t heard too much of their recently released album, Get Hurt, it was like falling in love for the first time with someone new. And Brian’s voice just has this rough yet gentle characteristic to it, like Springsteen when he’s singing, “The River.” It’s absorbed with enough emotion to swell up in an entire room. I think it’s his facial reactions mixed with the way he pushes out every lyric straight from his heart, down to his gut, and then out through his microphone of a mouth. And he just always appears so cool while doing it.
The Gaslight Anthem played a ton of new songs like, “Stay Vicious,” “1,000 Years,” “Get Hurt,” “Rumblin’” and Tumblin’,” and “Red Violins,” which Brian explained was a song that they had thrown out when they first wrote it, but something special about it made them think twice and keep it. “Helter Skeleton” was amongst the many of these newer songs and I still can’t get his lyrics out of my head…
‘And baby, there will always be a soft spot in my cardiac arrest.’
And if you’re interested about some lyrical content off the new record that will give you the chills, Stray Paper. It’s pure poetic genius.
They also threw some goodies in the mix like “Great Expectations,” which is one of my personal favorites and apparently many other on account of the entire audience sang every word aloud. In addition, Gaslight, of course, had to pull out “Wooderson” because you can’t forget to mention the “Shrewsbury stars” when you’re in the Garden State.
And this is what was really spectacular about it this particular show; they were in their hometown playing at a local record shop amidst their friends, people they had grown up with, and fans. During almost every song they played, one of the band members would peer out into the audience and smile, or give a head nod, or make some sort of gesture in acknowledgement to someone in the crowd that they knew. They would even stop to have normal, friendly conversation with the crowd about Jersey and music like they were just hanging out with their buddies (see below for a snippet).
Throughout the concert, I was standing next to a girl, Sam, who has followed them around the country and told me that this was her 100th Gaslight show. She explained,
‘People ask me all the time if it ever gets old seeing them, and my answer is always no, it never does. Set list is always different, energy is always different, crowd is always different, but they always sound great. Playing live shows is what they do best. It feels like the first time every time and I never leave disappointed.’
And do you know where she’s from, ladies and gentleman? Close by, right in Sayreville. The Gaslight Anthem are hometown heroes. And do you know what this show felt like? Exactly that. That we had all gathered to see longtime friends who actually “made it big” at one of our childhood landmarks. There was a truly great feeling of humbleness that came over me that day.
Read here for some fun storytelling by Brian Fallon:
“But feel free to peruse around and if there’s something you’ve been looking for for a while, chances are it’s here. There is stuff that is not on iTunes, believe it or not. I know it’s not that cool, but there are certain Bob Seger songs such as, The Fire Inside, which I had to find myself. Sorry, it’s not going to change your life, but it’s a good song. Might be better than our songs. It’s just a matter of opinion. I’m thinking about it now. Is it better? Because if I say it is then it’s like–okay I’ll stop lying, you’re right, it is better than Bob Segar. Just check it out, but you can’t find it on iTunes so you have to get it here. It’s on their ‘Greatest Hits,’ and everyone loves that song from the Wonder Years when Winnie Cooper is jumping out the window. But anyways, there are some good records here. Those are a little more expensive because they’re rare [points to the wall]. I was looking for a Tom Waits record that’s up there and it’s like $100, and I’m like, ‘Tom Waits? It’s a reissue, brother!’
There’s a great record that Bob Dylan did called, Time Out Of Mind, that Daniel Lanois produced, and if you don’t have it you should check it out. Even if you don’t like Bob Dylan, it’s a really good record. And it was his only Grammy? See, you know what, they don’t know anything. Now that proves it to me. The only Grammy for Bob Dylan?! I’m done with you all, your public opinion. Not you guys, but like, the people who are paid to be a little bit bett–what a dummy! Who wouldn’t give Bob Dylan a Grammy? There’s jerks every year winning Grammy’s. They’re probably going to give our dumb-selves a Grammy one day. And then I’ll be like Eddie Vedder and say, ‘[insert Eddy Vedder voice] I don’t like it, you didn’t give Bob Dylan enough of ‘em.’ And then I’ll throw it–no I’ll take it and I’ll keep that Grammy and I’ll be grateful and tell all y’all about it. “