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ATP! Live Review: The Gaslight Anthem - O2 Academy, Birmingham (UK)

The Gaslight Anthem have been championed by many as saviours of the guitar genre Their critically acclaimed sophomore effort "The 59 Sound" was a perfect introduction to the band's unique blend of punk and Americana music and with it, Brian Fallon and his cohorts were instantly propelled into the limelight. Riding the wave with "American Slang" which was a continuation that built upon the themes and stylings of "The 59 Sound" but remained dwarfed under the enormity of the prior effort.

"Handwritten", which was released earlier this year, was a step outside of their signature sound and leant more towards the musings of Pearl Jam and The Replacements, and it was from there that New Brunswick's finest went from hometown heroes to headline acts. Tonight's show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham could have easily have filled an arena. With tickets selling out within the first few days, the demand for The Gaslight Anthem was overwhelming. Lines stretched out of the venue and the audience was packed to such claustrophobic levels it was surprising that anybody could move.

On the cusp of their success with the number 5 chart position upon release of "Handwritten", it's not entirely surprising that The Gaslight Anthem would open up with a song from the album, but the audience were left awestruck when the band began to play the sombre ballad 'Mae' which leads into the final few minutes of the album. With the last note of the song, The Gaslight Anthem's banner fell down to massive acclaim. Performing an eclectic set, the band essentially play a show fuelled by fan favourites, 'Angry Johnny and The Radio' begins with a lengthier introduction with Brian Fallon exploring the frets on his guitar and adding much more texture to the original song, slipping in a soulful cover of Bon Iver's 'Blood Bank' which was perfectly sandwiched between bridge and last frantic chorus. A personal highlight was the inclusion of 'Blue Dahlia', a b-side from "Handwritten" where the band really explore different dynamics with an anthemic chorus, despite only being a b-side, the crowd still goes wild.

Bringing out Dave Hause, who opened up tonight, to accompany the band on 'American Slang', the explosive chorus sent singalongs throughout the entire audience. The band takes 5 on songs such as 'Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts' which gives the audience a chance to catch their breath, the sheer soul in Fallon's voice is naked, especially in this song, and is so opaque, it is as if you are seeing directly into his soul. It speaks volumes when a band leaves the stage and the audience chants a song that hasn't even been released as a single, with the chants of "oh sha-la-la, listen honey here comes my man" getting progressively louder and louder. It's as if the band has no choice but to substitute 'Wherefore art thou Elvis?' from what was on their initial setlist and perform it, but still maintain the same energy that they had before they left the stage and the crowd, now they've had time to rehearse, nails the chorus down perfectly to the point where Fallon doesn't need to sing into the microphone.

When you see your favorite band being sung by so many people, you lose the feeling of them being "that band that only you know", and some fans would estrange themselves because of it, but looking and listening out there across that vast crowd at the O2 Academy, it's heart-warming that a band such as The Gaslight Anthem have managed to relate to so many different people.

George Gadd

Alter The Press!