The Gaslight Anthem
Murder by Death
House of Blues Boston
October 17th, 2009
It’s amazing how quickly the Gaslight Anthem, a band that was barely known outside the state of New Jersey until recently, has exploded onto the scene in 2009. After an opening slot at a free WFNX show this summer, the band returned to Boston to headline the House of Blues in an engagement that signaled the arrival of the blue-collar quintet as one of today’s most promising acts.
The night began with a set from Broadway Calls, an up and coming pop-punk act that has seemingly opened for about 100 different bands this fall. While their short set was solid, it wasn’t as nearly as well received as their performance supporting Streetlight Manifesto at the same venue a month earlier.
As the cavernous venue finally began to fill up, Jesse Malin and his supporting band took the stage to perform a set of sunny pop tunes that had the crowd slightly interested. I’ll have to admit it wasn’t exactly my thing, so I didn’t pay too much attention.
Next up was Murder by Death, a band that served as a perfect opener for the Gaslight Anthem with their gruff, no frills style. The band played a 40 minute set of songs that dealt mainly with whiskey, drinking, the desert, and being in jail. It seemed as if the quartet was straight out of a John Wayne movie, and the crowd ate it up.
The Gaslight Anthem would then take the stage as Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was pumped over the PA system. With a huge smile on his face, lead singer Brian Fallon would strum the first notes to “High Lonesome” as the dance party instantly became a rousing rock show. The band would then tear through “Casanova, Baby!” and “Old White Lincoln” as the crowd surged toward the front of the stage and sang along.
As the set wore on, the New Jersey quintet seemed to pick up steam with every song, and those in attendance responded in kind. Fallon and co. would not only play every song from their breakout album The ’59 Sound, but they would also play a number of tracks from their debut full length Sink or Swim, as well as from their more recent Senior and the Queen EP. While it was not surprising that they would venture into older material, it was surprising how enthusiastically the crowd responded to it. It’s good to see that radio success hasn’t created an army of fair weather fans.
The ear to ear grin that Fallon had showcased at the start of the set never left his face, An outsider might have thought he had just won the lottery, and based on the size of the crowd that packed the House of Blues and their enthusiasm, he might as well have. After a show stopping rendition of “Here’s Looking At You, Kid,” the band would charge into “The Backseat,” a set closing number that had crowd serfers flying through the air.
After a brief time break, the group would return for an encore that would feature zero songs from their most recent album but would still inspire quite a bit of chaos in the pit. “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts” was followed by “Drive,” and the show was then closed with a cathartic version of “Say You Won’t (Recognize)” that saw nearly everyone on the floor crashing and bouncing into each other like bumper cars.
With smiles still intact, the band would leave the stage a full hour and a half after they had made their appearance, which is almost unheard of for a band with only two full length records. They had given their fans everything they had wanted and more, which is just one of the reasons why one of rock’s best kept secrets may officially be out.
Taking Back Sunday
Envy on the Coast
House of Blues, Boston
June 27th, 2009
If you’re a borderline-obsessive music fan like myself, you probably know what I mean when I mention those special bands. They are the select few you fall in love with the first time you hear them. You think they’re speaking directly to you, even when thousands other people feel the exact same way. These are the bands that you discover early on, and they go on to shape your musical tastes for years to come. You compare every other band to them, and you never miss their live shows. There were a few of those bands for me, and they represent a pretty generic list. AFI, Alkaline Trio, Brand New, Northstar, and of course, Taking Back Sunday. My infatuation with the band began as a sophomore in high school when I picked up their debut effort Tell All Your Friends not having heard a single song, but struck by the title. After John Nolan left the band, most critics left them for dead, but I (like most of their fans) didn’t. Their next record, Where You Want To Be is still one of my all-time favorites. A show they played with Jimmy Eat World in Providence in support of that record was one of the first shows I ever attended, and and one of the best.
Then came Louder Now. The band’s third album, while not a bad effort by any means, couldn’t match the previous two. Their live shows, which had once been frantic, rousing affairs with plenty of mic swinging by frontman Adam Lazzara, began to feel less urgent, as style slowly replaced substance in the form of huge backdrops and blinding light shows at arenas across the country. When the band parted ways with guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino in 2007, I, like most of remaining critics, was ready to give up on Taking Back Sunday.
Earlier this month, the band released their fourth album New Again, with new guitarist Matt Fazzi attempting to fill the rather large role Nolan and Masherino had once played. While I would like to come out and say it has completely restored my faith in the band, it hasn’t. It’s decent. It contains some great songs, maybe some of the best the band has written, but like Louder Now, it is still lacking something that’s difficult to put my finger on. While the band attempts to capture the sense of urgency found in their first two records, they come up just a little bit short.
And that is why I came into the band’s show at the House of Blues in Boston with very few expectations. I figured the quintet would have a difficult time replicating Masherino’s gruff backing vocals, and I wondered if they would focus only on material from New Again to avoid this problem. I did, however, have high expectations of the two opening bands, Long Island’s Envy on the Coast, and Anberlin, a band that has seen a great deal of success with their major label debut New Surrender.
Envy on the Coast provided the show with a somewhat odd opening, beginning their set with the haunting “(X) Amount of Truth.” They then transitioned into “Vulture” and later to a new song from their upcoming second record. None of these songs seemed to interested the crowd, although there was a small contingent towards the front of the venue that were singing along. Things picked up with “Sugar Skulls,” before losing steam once again with “Paperback” and then another new song. Being that this was the last night of the tour, lead singer Ryan Hunter stopped between songs to thank Taking Back Sunday, saying that Tell All Your Friends would always symbolizes a certain period in his life, just like New Again would symbolize this one.
After being awarded an autographed bottle of wine by the members of Taking Back Sunday, the band got to the song that has been responsible for much of their early success, “The Gift of Paralysis.” The track’s opening notes instantly brought the crowd to life, and the band was soon joined on stage once again by members of Taking Back Sunday and their road crew. The crowd loudly voiced their approval as Lazzara and Hunter stood back to back and chanted the song’s memorable chorus.
While the crowd had stood fairly motionless throughout Envy’s set, that would change when Anberlin took the stage, but certainly not during the
first two songs. Beginning their set with “The Resistance,” frontman Stephan Christian, sounding more nasally than on CD, bounced around stage, trying in vain to get the crowd moving. After a solid rendition of “A Whisper & A Clamor,” the band would move on to “Disappear,” which finally got things going. It was as if the band had finally struck down a dam that had been holding back all of the crowd’s pent up energy, as it spilled over into the rest of what would become a great set. The band did a nice job of mixing new and old, even including a cover of New Order’s “True Faith.” The band finished the set with their two biggest hits, “Godspeed” and “The Feel Good Drag.” Anberlin executed both with surgical precision, and the crowd responded in force, with fists (and bodies) flying through the air.
After the standard 30 minute break between sets, it was time for the moment of truth. Taking Back Sunday took the stage, launched into “You Know How I Do,” and, at least temporarily, erased all concerns that they were past their prime. The band’s first song form their first record was an absolutely perfect choice to start the show, as the crowd surged toward the stage and practically drowned out Lazzara and co., screaming along to each word. With the energy level already dialed up to 11, the band took another swing at the doubters as bassist Matt Rubano pounded out the opening cords to “”Error:Operator.” If there was anyone in the room that wasn’t completely absorbed by the band’s performance at this point, they were doing a good job of hiding it.
With many in the crowd now gasping for air after these two enormous sing-alongs, the band kept their foot planted firmly on the accelerator with their performance of “Set Phasers To Stun.” The song’s chorus rang true, for there was no where else I, or most of the other fans in the crowd, would have rather been. A band that I hadn’t expected anything from had come out swinging, playing a fan favorite from each of their first three records to start the show. While no one would have been surprised if they had come out and played a set heavy with “New Again” tunes, it was obvious that Taking Back Sunday was determined to connect with the fans and give them what they had come for. Another bonus was the fact that, unlike on past tours, the band seemed completely focused on the music and the crowd. There were no fancy backdrops, costumes or gimmicks.
The band finally debuted a New Again song with “Carpathia,” one of the hardest-driving tracks from the new record. It didn’t receive the same type of reaction the first three songs had, but those at the front of the stage weren’t exactly standing still, either. Throughout the rest of the show, neither the band nor the crowd were able to match the sky-high energy level both displayed during the first three songs, both this isn’t too say they both weren’t trying their hardest.
Following “180 By Summer” and “Lonely Lonely,” Taking Back Sunday once again returned to a fan favorite from their first album, “You’re So Last Summer.” Considering the band’s more recent efforts have been so successful, it would be understandable if some in the crowd weren’t familiar with these older tracks, but instead, the four Tell All Your Friends tracks the band would play turned out to be the highlights of the show. While members of the band are often critical of the album and state how they have moved on and become a better band, it is obvious that the record will always be special to their fans.
Next, the band moved to a rather sloppy version of “Liar (It Takes One to Know One). After New Again’s title track, which probably received the best reaction of all the new songs on the setlist, the band once again worked the crowd into near hysteria with “Cute Without the E.” It was difficult to judge just how well Matt Fazzi performed in his role as the band’s new backing vocalist due to the fact that, for most of the show, he was drowned out by the frenzied singing of those in the band, but when his vocals could actually be heard, they certainly sounded passable, even if they weren’t quite as distinguishable as those of the two men he replaced.
The band would end the set in the same way they had begun many shows in the past, with Louder Now opening track “What’s It Feel Like to be a Ghost?” The band would then begin the encore with “Everything Must Go,” one of the better songs from New Again, and an interesting choice for an encore. While the crowd sang along to the song’s memorable “You quote the good book when it’s convenient” chorus, it would be the final three songs of the show that would truly illustrate why, despite all the line-up changes, Taking Back Sunday is still a live band that is well worth the price of admission (and even the service fees).
The first of those three would be another Tell All Your Friends classic, “Timberwolves at New Jersey.” Lazarra would then stop to thank the road crew for their hard work throughout the tour, and grant a special request from one of the lighting technicians, which happened to be Louder Now’s “Spin.” Despite all of his vocal theatrics throughout the show, Lazarra was still able to nail all of the high notes in the song’s chorus. Finally, the band would close the show with “MakeDamnSure,” to the delight of the crowd, which dug down and sang along as if they weren’t completely exhausted and hadn’t been abusing their vocal cords for the last hour. The band would then walk off stage knowing that their first nationwide tour with a new lineup and in support of a new record was over, and was a succes. The fans would leave the venue knowing the Taking Back Sunday they knew and loved was still alive and well, and wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Both, I’m sure, where beyond relieved.
Envy on the Coast
(X) Amount of Truth
The Gift of Paralysis
Whisper and a Clamor
A Day Late
Paper Thin Hymn
True Faith (New Order cover)
Feel Good Drag
Taking Back Sunday
You Know How I Do
Set Phasers to Stun
One-Eighty By Summer
You’re So Last Summer
Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
Cute Without the “E”
Sink Into Me
A Decade Under the Influence\
What’s It Feel Like To Be a Ghost?
Everything Must Go
Timberwolves At New Jersey