While it may be a little self-serving to admit, news that The Gaslight Anthem were bringing Against Me! out as direct support for the first US leg of the U.S tour in support of Get Hurt quickly made for one of the more eagerly-anticipated concert events in recent memory (save, maybe, for the nostalgia-inducing Summer Nationals tour that featured The Vandals, Pennywise and Bad Religion supporting The Offspring as the latter band celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their breakthrough hit album, Smash). In this lowly writer’s opinion, both Get Hurt and Against Me’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues have been on the short list of Best Albums of 2014 since their very spins on the trusty old record player.
Technically speaking, this writer must offer a mea culpa to Twopointeight: the Swedish punks were first opener on this evening, however the early start time and infamous Boston traffic and parking conundrums meant that, like many people, I was unable to catch the majority of the band’s set. Next time, fellas…next time.
While I haven’t talked to her in order to confirm my suspicions, I strongly believe that while 2014 may have been trying in myriad ways (the least of which include replacing the band’s entire rhythm section and dealing with patronizingly tone-deaf reviews of Transgender Dysphoria Blues by at least one major publication with whom I share a last name), performing the intensely personal new album live alongside longtime friend and bandmate James Bowman appears to have had immense cathartic value for Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace. Grace has made a career of being the type of intense, cut-a-vein-open-and-bleed-out-on-stage performer that the foundation of the protest punk ethos was built upon. And while that intensity is still ever-present, what’s equally obvious is the amount of fun that Grace is having (despite, on this night, seemingly being plagued by a little vocal hoarseness as the night went on). The rhythm section of the great Atom Willard (drums) and Inge Johannson (bass) paced the charge, each playing like a man possessed (the latter an almost comically demonic end, as evidenced in the pictures below) as the band ripped through “Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong” as the opening song. What followed was a fairly decent career-spanning forty-five minute set. Highlight tracks from the Transgender Dysphoria Blues, including the title track, “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “Black Me Out” have a natural home alongside longtime favorites like “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” and “Don’t Lose Touch.” Though the crowd was not perhaps a stereotypical AM! crowd given their opening slot, the bulk of the audience seemed just as energized by Against Me!’s set as they were with the headliners.
Though Against Me!’s current lineup has only been touring as a unit for under a year, they’ve quickly solidified as a tight, dynamic force on stage. When in a support role, this has the effect of keeping the headliners honest, making sure that the main act are primed and loaded for bear. The Gaslight Anthem responded in kind with all guns blazing, ripping through a tight rendition of Get Hurt opener “Stay Vicious.” As expected, the band’s stellar new album featured prominently in the set (seven of the twenty-one TGA originals). Those familiar with a little of the back story in the Gaslight camp over the past year or so will note that, like Against Me!, the band (and frontman Brian Fallon) have been met with a fair amount of personal and professional tumult. And while Get Hurt can unquestionably be referred to as Fallon’s breakup album, one can’t help but notice that 2014-era Brian Fallon seems to play with a bit of a weight no longer on his shoulders. Indeed, perhaps the only person on stage all night visibly getting more enjoyment out of playing live more than Laura Jane Grace on this night was Fallon, whose smile seemed welded on as a permanent part of his face. His trademark between-song banter was lighthearted (introducing “Blue Jeans And White T-Shirts” as the “most circle-pit inspiring song we have” in response to some good-natured ribbing from an audience member).
There was perhaps a Pearl Jam-esque arena rock quality to the band’s set, though the requisite “for the old school fans” songs like “We Came To Dance” and “1930” fit in nicely amongst a set primarily culled from the band’s post-’59 Sound catalog. While some in the crowd may have questioned the band for closing with a cover, The Who’s classic high-energy, youth rock pre-punk paean (and longtime Pearl Jam live staple) “Baba O’Riley” seemed to accurately capture where the band are a decade into their career. Perhaps we (and I’m including myself in this) can finally knock off the cheap Vedder and Springsteen comparisons and fully appreciate what The Gaslight Anthem are: not only willing but, more importantly, perfectly capable of maintaining the authentic, songwriter-inspired American rock and roll torch for years going forward.
Check out our gallery of Against Me! and The Gaslight Anthem photos from the show below. Click on the actual pictures to see ’em in all their full-sized glory!
Add The Gaslight Anthem to My Radar