Just over a week ago Dave Grohl told me that rock and roll isn’t dead. On Monday, The Gaslight Anthem proved it. On their third trip to Dublin’s Olympia Theatre they were at their absolute best and the sooner they return the better.
As work always dictates these days, we arrived after support act The Scandals had finished but based on their cameo towards the end of the show, I’d see these guys in a heartbeat. Once it was time for the main act I was quite surprised that it took ten tracks before we heard anything from the new album, not counting “Sweet Morphine” which was only heard on the deluxe edition. I’ll admit that their fifth album, last year’s Get Hurt, hasn’t entirely grabbed me as strongly as their previous efforts did. It’s not bad, not by any stretch, but unlike American Slang and it’s predecessor The ’59 Sound there isn’t a landmark feeling to it (Handwritten is in a similar vote but strong enough on its own all the same). All of that said though, I wouldn’t have objected to one or two more new tracks, particularly “Helter Skeleton“, but the setlist was perfectly balanced all the same.
Kicking off with the thundering punch of “Handwritten”, Gaslight proceeded to hammer us with four face melters in a row before Brian Fallon approached to address the crowd. Here’s where I want to talk a little serious for a second, without getting too morbid. In the four times I’ve seen Gaslight and once seeing Fallon with The Revival Tour, it has been apparent if not obvious that he may have hand a fondness for booze. Not that he would ramble onto stage Shane McGowan style, though he did seem extremely worse for wear at the Revival show, but he would come across a little reserved and somewhat introverted. By his own admission on Monday he appears to have given alcohol the boot these days and I can’t deny that it must be linked with his sudden presence onstage. There in the Olympia it was like looking at a man reborn as Fallon took to engaging the audience more than I have ever seen him do before. Doesn’t hurt that he’s an extremely witty and interesting dude too. Maybe it’s unrelated but whatever the case, much props to him and keep doing what you’re doing sir.
The aforementioned “Sweet Morphine” was the first new track coming in fifth on the set and it was the first of many quiet moments. I’ll admit to being a little peeved at seeing the standard exodus to the bar for the slow song routine but Fallon disagreed. Later on, closing out the set he very genuinely thanked the audience for their patience and respect for the quiet moments in the set. After my experiences in Slane I have to say this was exactly the gig I needed and kudos to you all who shut up when required. Next big highlight of the set was the always welcome “Diamond Church Street Choir” and again, maybe totally unrelated to my earlier remarks, but Fallon has never sounded better. None of their songs test his vocal range more than this and he was note perfect throughout.
Mixing up the formula a bit more the band went into a pseudo request box format, with Fallon having taken to Twitter the day before to see what people wanted to hear. This in turn led to “Here’s Looking At You Kid” and, well, thank you Twitter. A magic song done brilliantly, with a somewhat impromptu duet with a roadie on the solo to boot. The final bit of request box came with an off the cuff “National Anthem” and then we were into the home stretch. Gaslight do have one thing above all else that other bands don’t – the perfect closer. “The Backseat” really does epitomise them as a group, encapsulating the American landscape as seen through the gaze of youth, of innocence and what may be gained or lost along the road. It sends you off into the night wondering, all the while content though. Sure enough, like the rest of the European dates thus far, we got “We’re Getting A Divorce, You Keep The Diner” as a post script to finish out the gig, with support being provided by The Scandals, but it was only an added bonus. A great band, playing at the best they’ve ever been, I’m desperately curious to see what happens next.