Show Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Live at Terminal 5 in NYC (Nov 28, Nov 29, Nov 30)

On the nights of November 28, November 29, and November 30, The Gaslight Anthem played three back-to-back-to-back shows at Terminal 5 in NYC. Touring in support their fourth studio album, Handwritten, the band sold out all three nights incredibly quick. (Side note: when the band initially announced their tour dates, they were only scheduled to play on Nov 28 and Nov 29, but due to high demand they added the third date not too long afterward). The band tapped singer-songwriter Matthew Ryan to open for them on all three nights, while also selecting Laura Stevenson and the Cans, Cheap Girls, and The Static Jacks to play on the 28th, 29th, and 30th respectively.

Terminal 5 is a weird venue. In terms of size it’s a wonderful place for bands the caliber of The Gaslight Anthem to play. The stage is large enough to fit five people comfortably, there’s a standing area for people to crowd around, but there is also the back bar area for older fans and parents who had to bring their 16 year old. Additionally there are two levels full of General Admission standing and seated areas. In writing, it sounds perfect. However, since the main performing area is essentially a large cylinder, the acoustics have to be spot on, lest the entire place shake along to the drums while the rest of the band gets lost in the pounding. Luckily this wasn’t a huge problem during any of the three nights, save for one instance. Most complaints about Terminal 5 tend to concern the bathroom attendant standing there while you release all that $8 beer. This sort of thing may be common for some crowds, but it’s not really something a punk rocker expects to ever run into at a show (admittedly, the ties that The Gaslight Anthem’s music has to the punk rock scene are tenuous at best these days, but punks still do make up a good portion of their fanbase). But on the bright side, the bathrooms also had candy to take. Who doesn’t like free candy?

Matthew Ryan started off all three nights at exactly 8pm, quietly introducing himself and breaking out into songs. Not only was it clear on each night that the audience wasn’t familiar with Mr. Ryan, but it was also painfully clear who was interested in becoming familiar with his work, and who just didn’t care. During his set each night there was plenty of chatter coming from everywhere that wasn’t directly in front of the stage to the point of where it was distracting to anyone trying to pay attention. Ryan was a trooper though, playing through his songs without any hesitation or concern for the lack of fans in the crowd. On the second night there were some folk complaining that it didn’t make sense why a solo acoustic act would open up for The Gaslight Anthem although anyone who has ever seen or heard Brian Fallon perform solo with an acoustic guitar could draw the connection immediately.

The second act drew almost the same reactions that Matthew Ryan received on each night. Laura Stevenson and the Cans received an unfortunate lukewarm response, with just as much chatter occurring as during Ryan’s set. It was a shame because the band performed wonderfully, even treating the crowd to a few new songs all of which were fast and upbeat and a welcome addition to the band’s back catalog. Night two’s set with Cheap Girls featured less talking, if only because the band plays a louder brand of rock music. That didn’t stop hecklers making terrible comments in between songs, nor did it stop said hecklers from getting dirty looks from fans of the band. Arguably the greatest moment of the set was when Jeff Rosenstock (of Bomb the Music Industry! fame) jumped up onto stage during Hey Hey, I’m Worn Out to join the band on vocals. Unfortunately this was a wasted moment and the majority of the crowd remained unfazed as they had no idea what was going on before their very eyes. The Static Jacks on night three probably had the best reception of all the opening acts, although whoever was in charge of the sound that night was way off their game, as there was not a safe place in the house to stay clear of the vibrations caused by the drums. All three of the bands used their (approximate) half hour sets to their full potential, regardless of whether the audience wanted to acknowledge it or not.

The wait time in between the second band and The Gaslight Anthem on each night was minimal, giving the band more time for their set as well as giving the crowd more bang for their buck. Rather than kicking off each set with a fast number, the band opted to start things up with “Mae“, slowly building up the energy before busting out into a faster number (all of which were from the band’s 2008 break out album, The ’59 Sound). From there, the band plowed through all of their crowd favorites including, but not limited to: Miles Davis and the Cool, Angry Johnny and the Radio, The Diamond Church Street Choir, 45, Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts, and The Patient Ferris Wheel. Although all three nights heavily featured songs from The ’59 Sound and Handwritten, the band still found ways to keep the sets varied. During night one, the band had played almost the entirety of their second album, and the only time they played new track Keepsake. Night two featured a brand new song titled Halloween, as well as performances of Wooderson, Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis? and Howl. The final night saw the band adding Drive and The Navesink Banks as their token Sink or Swim-era songs. For complete set lists of each nights, refer to here (Nov 28), here (Nov 29), and here (Nov 30).

The band was spot on all three nights. Often times songs were extended either due to a solo or the band taking a longer pause than usual to allow for the crowd to cheer and/or sing the upcoming chorus. Frontman Brian Fallon made small talk in between songs, interacting with the crowd several times; from letting everyone know that the shows were being filmed for a future DVD release, to pointing out that drummer Benny Horowitz was wearing a Brooklyn Nets shirt, commenting on how quickly the team has adjusted to their new home, to having a casual one-on-one conversation with a rather tall audience member on nights one and two. Perhaps one of the most memorable incidents was on the first night, when the band was playing “Blue Dahlia” (one of the bonus tracks on Handwritten). Right before the chorus the band stopped playing to address the scuffle (aka, a fight between drunken crowd members) that was occurring with a well-inflected “we’ve got all the time in the world to wait for you to mature”. The crowd cheered, and the band picked up the song right from where they left off.

If there were any disappointments at all during any of the three nights (other than the bathroom attendant listening to you go to the bathroom), the glaring problem was coming to terms with the realization that The Gaslight Anthem isn’t just for aging and jaded punks anymore, and some of their new audience, to be blunt, sucks. The crowd was full of all types of people, which is fine, but there’s always a problem when a group of people think that moshing equates solely to shoving their elbows into everyone surrounding them (additionally, it’s a problem when said group thinks that it’s an appropriate time to try to mosh during The Gaslight Anthem). This isn’t the band’s fault at all, but it was very unsettling to realize that there were a handful of rude and pig-headed folk among the crowd (as evidenced by the aforementioned attempts to “mosh”, but also during the first night when Fallon asked that people not grope female crowd surfers and was met with a “shut up and play some damn songs!”. Or as evidenced by the amount of talking each night during the first song of the encore, which was Fallon and Matthew Ryan playing I Can’t Steal You; a song written by Ryan, and one that Fallon expressed a great admiration for.

Crummy new fans aside, there was nothing disappointing during those three nights in regards to the band’s performances. Averaging 24-25 songs a night, the band played with an energy that always managed to light up the room (except for when they played a slow song, of course). It’s amazing to see how far this band has come in such a short amount of time, and as long as this momentum continues there’s nowhere for the band to go but up.

The Gaslight Anthem, you’re more than welcome to play another three nights in a row in NYC anytime.

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