Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gaslight Anthem; Heartless Bastards @ Webster Hall

The Gaslight Anthem; Heartless Bastards; Good Old War
@ Webster Hall
New York, NY - March 27, 2009

This is probably the first and last time I ever go to a show with the expressed purpose of seeing a suburban punk band. The Gaslight Anthem are really, in essence, nothing more than that: a typical, mundane, Warped Tour band. But band founder Brian Fallon found a niche - he wraps the sound around a Bruce Springsteen-inspired aesthetic. This shows up in two ways: the penchant for anthem-heavy choruses and the nostalgic lyrics of a simple, blue-collar time somewhere in the swamps of Jersey. This is what happens when one of these mall punk bands comes from the Garden State, instead of the Midwest or California. And more or less, the shtick works - the guy means it, and the songs are by and large irresistible, most noticeably the triumphant title track to The '59 Sound, a cut that encapsulates Fallon's story in a nutshell. The rest of the work is more than a lyrical homage to the Boss, and is at times a littany of the music Fallon likes to champion, even if he doesn't display any kinship to it (Miles Davis?). The funny moments were when the suburbanite crowd threw half-assed middle fingers in the air, make half-assed attempts at crowd surfing, and were pretty silent at Fallon's name dropping of the Cold War Kids (proof right there that this kid has more cred than his fans).

One hopes that in addition to enjoying the fluff of the Gaslight Anthem, some kids in the crowd came away from the Heartless Bastards set as changed people, about to embark on a journey through rock like they never would have expected. With no pretense, no mission other than to play what she knows, Erika Wennerstrom took the stage and displayed, along with her backing band, how she has taken it to the next level. The HB's were a decent if ho-hum outfit a few years ago, but they have come roaring back (is this what a move from Cincinatti to Austin does?). The Mountain is a barnburner, and it seems to have elevated the stature of the previous work. Erika's voice is impeccable and gripping, her revamped band are masterful rock n' roll musicians, and the songs are both epic and pastoral at the same time. This is a band you'd want to travel the roads of America with. But be careful - she seems like a nice gal, but with those arms, Erika could punch your teeth out.

Good Old War are a Philadelphia folk-pop trio who sound like Fleet Foxes - consistent, pleasant - but unlike that other band, there doesn't seem to be one stand-out track to make you take real notice. Still, no harm no foul.

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2 Comments:

At March 28, 2009 at 2:49:00 PM EDT, Anonymous drewo said...

Nice review, could not agree more. The bill should have been flipped to have HB on top - with a bit more stage time.

 
At April 2, 2009 at 12:39:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Jason said...

I couldn't diagree more, abotu comparing them to California mall punk.
I do agree with your comments regarding the crowd. My wife & I were probably among the oldest of the attendees. We were 2 of very few that clapped for both opening acts, understood Brian Fallon's jokes & comments. I even caught that he referenced Jodi Foster incorrectly, he meant Bridget Fonda, & probably the only 2 who knew the lyrics to State of Love Trust. I've been a big supporter of GA since I first heard them last year. They didn't dissappoint live. As for Heartless Bastards, the singer has a haunting voice ala Brandi Carlisle, but the songs became one after the third. Same with Good Old War. Their harmonies were amazing, & they obviously have musical talent, but it got old. ANway thanks for reviewing the show at all. Not many reviews on the net. Cheers

 

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