Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Gaslight Anthem/Japandroids - Bristol Academy (22 March 2013) gig report

So it was on a cold, rainy March day that we travelled halfway across the country to the O2 Bristol Academy to see The Gaslight Anthem supported by Japandroids. We endured First Great Western, Ibis and the vibrant, hectic, cosmopolitan streets to reach our venue, host for a second night to the New Jersey heartland rock band. Truth be told, I was more interested in the Vancouverite duo in support than the headliners. Having listened to the albums, American Slang more than others, and been taken in by their new release Handwritten, The Gaslight Anthem have remained 'take-it-or-leave-it' for me. But sometimes it takes a live gig to win you over.

Before I could think about it too much, Japandroids walked on stage, in front of a wall of amplifiers. How would the Canadian prog-punks deliver a set to get the crowd ready for the main event? Awesomely, that's how. In what seemed like a fifteen minute blur of guitars, drums and distorted vocals, just the two of them with no tour support or gimmicks, they blazed through most of Celebration Rock as if their lives depended on it. They made The Black Keys look and sound like The Carpenters. The small venue shook and shuddered as The Nights Of Wine And Roses, Evil's Sway and the magnificent Adrenaline Nightshift threatened to blow the roof off the place. The crowd quickly became a mix of delight and bemusement right up to the last dregs of For The Love Of Ivy.

The crowd swelled, the balconies and walkways filled and the band most people were here to see, arrived. The Gaslight Anthem walked on stage to the sound of Jump by Van Halen and immediately launched into High Lonesome followed by the brilliant Handwritten. The set comprised mostly the latest album and The '59 Sound, with the rest forming the best of American Slang. Such was the quality there was no room for the wonderful Mae, Meet Me By The River's Edge and Miles Davis & The Cool. And it wasn't as if lead singer and guitarist Brian Fallon stopped to talk to the crowd - he thanked everyone for coming, asked if anyone had been to the previous night's gig (a mighty roar suggested that most had), and told everyone that it was 'the same band, different set'. He also introduced the Dylan cover Changing Of The Guards and explained that it was from the new Amnesty International compilation. And that was about it. He is a man of few words. This fitted the workmanlike attitude of the band who simply got on with the music as the fans swayed, punched the air and in part pushed each other around in one of many impromptu moshes - it all seemed harmless, if spirited, enough. My favourite track from Handwritten, Too Much Blood, was a welcome surprise and the excellent "45" proved to be my highlight, and the encore closed with a mighty rendition of The Backseat. But above all, the band re-introduced me to the power and depth of their impressive catalogue.

I went to the gig wanting to be a fan and left feeling like one. I didn't get it before but now I do. I don't remember the last time I witnessed a band generate that much emotion and passion from a crowd and I was instantly taken by the energy they injected into the live performance.

A great night.

The Set list was (I think):
  • High Lonesome
  • Handwritten
  • We Came To Dance
  • The Diamond Church Street Choir
  • "45"
  • The Patient Ferris Wheel
  • Desire
  • Film Noir
  • Changing Of The Guards (Bob Dylan cover)
  • The Navesink Banks
  • Casanova, Baby!
  • Biloxi Parish
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Orphans
  • Too Much Blood
  • Great Expectations
  • Keepsake
  • She Loves You
  • Here Comes My Man
  • Old Haunts
  • The Queen Of Lower Chelsea
  • The '59 Sound
  • The Backseat 
-- CS


Mr Magoo said...

Excellent review of an amazing evening... made even better by great company!

Chris said...

Cheers bud :)