Two years, two short years; that’s all it took for The Gaslight Anthem to go from playing sweaty sold out gigs at the now defunct Manhattan branch of the Knitting Factory to headlining arguably the most famous theater in the United States – Radio City Music Hall. While a number of factors could be attributed to this meteoric rise in popularity, on Thursday night they proved that a bit of elbow grease and a humble attitude coupled with outstanding songs are all you need to reach your goals. Those songs, including many from their recently released third long player American Slang (Side One Dummy) were on display for the massive crowd of devotees.
Shortly after 9pm The Gaslight Anthem strolled out to their places on the massive Radio City stage. As they ripped into their first song, “High Lonesome”, off their anthem laced sophomore record The ’59 Sound, the crowd was beside itself not knowing the appropriate rules of concert engagement for a venue of this particular majesty. As the band plowed through a few more songs, their nerves began to settle and the crowd soon followed suit. By the time they got to their soulful title track of youth and loss, “The ’59 Sound”, the party hosted by these Jersey boys was in full swing. All the fist pumping and singing along made it clear that this crowd came from Springsteen’s New Jersey not Snookie’s. Gaslight’s fans are what singer Brian Fallon refers to as the “Jukebox Romeos” on the track “We Came to Dance”. They are working class romantics who aren’t afraid to scream every lyric while getting lost in the performance.
The rest of the set was laced with jams that kept the frenzy peaked. The Gaslight Anthem doesn’t pen a song to simply fill a record or appease an executive. They create their art with intense passion and sincerity and it was on display when they closed their set with the solemn ballad “We Did It When We Were Young”. The band returned to the stage amidst an ocean of emotive fans who appreciated the moment with the same genuine happiness as the band. Their final song “Backseats”, served as closure for all the punks who made their way across the Hudson River; the anthem proved that Gaslight deserved their time on the historic stage and only they would determine when that time was up.
So maybe it was fitting that all these proletariat punks got invited to the temple of the performing arts to worship at the feet of their newest demigods. While the rabid fan base may lack the financial security to see all the concerts at Radio City, it’s clear that when they get invited to the dance, they know the magnitude of the opportunity and take full advantage of all it has to offer.