Despite the band’s best efforts, one can’t help but be distracted by the crowd. That might sound like a criticism; The Gaslight Anthem don’t have a wild, wonderful laser show awing us until we’re numb. There are no pyrotechnics, no fancy screen with an arty film playing in the background. There’s certainly no pr**k with a f**king glowing mouse mask on his head. No, unlike the majority of mainstream acts my generation have come to worship, the Gaslight Anthem feel no need to use every gimmick under the sun. There’s no cynicism, no oh-so clever self-reflexive irony. It’s not that they’re screaming for our attention – it’s that their muscular riffs and soulful words leave us with no choice.
And that’s what makes The Gaslight Anthem such an inclusive band. There is nothing to dislike. Shorn of any potentially alienated costume, devoid of costume and, in the shape of Brian Fallon such a warm and modest front man, Gaslight Anthem make themselves accessible to all. As someone usually into hardcore, metal and punk, that is usually far from what I’m looking for in my favourite bands. Yet last night, I shared my favourite songs – from the rousing “’Great Expectations” to the somber “National Anthem” with teary bald men twice my age, a teenage girl sporting a “I fancy the lead singer” t-shirt, countless checked shirts and a goon in a suit who danced as if he was about ten pints in at his daughter’s wedding.
A Gaslight Anthem gig is a communal experience – a collective cry for times gone by. For an age when rock music still meant something. When it still twanged away at our innermost longings. When The Clash made masses believe in rebellion. When Springsteen brought a voice to a world that had never had one before. And when Bob Dylan proved it was possible to touch millions of souls with just a guitar and gravelly voice. I was born too late for those bands. I don’t have them to call my own. Instead I have the Gaslight Anthem.