Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Gig Review: The Gaslight Anthem at Shepherd's Bush Empire 29/8/15 by Emma Prew

Everyone has that one band that ‘changed their life’, right? Or that one song or album that led to a hundred more songs or albums by other bands that you wouldn't otherwise have heard of if it wasn't for that first band. The Gaslight Anthem are that band for me. I went from randomly seeing the video for The ’59 Sound on TV one day – even though I didn't usually watch TV – to buying the album (and the previous album, Sink or Swim) then slowly but surely uncovering a world of punk rock. The Gaslight Anthem aren't even particularly classed as a punk band, but they are most certainly part of the ‘scene’. Before I knew it I was part of the punk rock world and I haven't looked back since.

I had tickets to see The Gaslight Anthem play Alexandra Palace last November. I bought them without thinking, as soon as the show was announced. I'd already seen them live 4 times but it had been a few years since I saw them last (Brixton Academy). I had every intention of going, despite how difficult I had heard it was to get to and despite really not getting into their fifth album, Get Hurt. (I still don't like it much), but then Against Me! announced that they would be playing London, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, on exactly the same night. I had a dilemma about it for a good few weeks but in the end, sold my TGA tickets for half their value (it wasn't sold out and I was happy to get anything for them) and went to see Against Me! instead. It was the best gig I went to last year, without a doubt, and probably one of the best I've ever been to. No regrets.

Earlier this year, The Gaslight Anthem announced a show at Shepherd's Bush in between their Reading and Leeds festival slots. Or rather I should say that Laura Jane Grace, of Against Me!, posted an image of the gig poster with her band in support. It couldn't have been more ironic. Or more perfect. My friend Steve and I were lucky enough to get tickets and were greatly anticipating seeing both bands in one night.

Shortly after buying tickets it was announced that it would be one of the last Gaslight dates for a while as the band will be ‘taking a break’ – code for Brian wants to go solo. Perhaps this was why we saw the show announced by Laura and not The Gaslight Anthem themselves – I had noticed how lax they had become on social media. To be honest, it didn't come as too much of a surprise to me and given my feelings about the last album, plus how little I'd listened to them in comparison to say The Menzingers (who have taken my ‘favourite band’ spot), the news of their break up didn't really hit too hard. Even so, I was looking forward to seeing them one last time.

But not as much as I was looking forward to Against Me! As one of the best live bands around, I was super keen to see them again. And they certainly did not disappoint. The band stormed through song after song fitting a lot into their support slot. It didn't make a difference to them that it wasn't their show and it certainly didn't to me. Although, of course, I would have happily watched them play for longer! I greatly enjoyed dancing and singing away but did notice that very few people around me were doing the same. I had assumed that there would be a lot of Against Me! fans as well as Gaslight fans but it didn't seem that way. All the more reason that I can't wait to see them again at their own show where I know the audience will not be standing still!

So, Against Me! finished and we retreated further back to watch The Gaslight Anthem. At the time this seemed like a wise decision as it was super hot down the front and we were both mostly there for AM! but I soon regretted this decision when Gaslight came on and played songs that sent me to my happy nostalgic place. I'm super short and struggle to see at gigs at the best of times but I really couldn’t see a thing of The Gaslight Anthem.

Overall I loved their performance but I'm pretty sure I have a somewhat biased opinion considering all that The Gaslight Anthem have done for me. I did, however, go through varying degrees of emotion: excitement for all the classics, particularly from Sink or Swim and The ’59 Sound, and indifference towards the more recent songs. Thankfully they played a variety of songs, from all five of their albums rather than assigning most of their set to Get Hurt.

A major highlight for me was hearing Señor and the Queen from the 2008 EP of the same name. They didn't play one of my favourite songs of all time, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, but I have heard that live a few times previously. The stand out moment in their set was when Brian invited his favourite British musician and friend on stage to sing Great Expectations – none other than Mr Frank Turner! It's been a long-standing dream of mine to one day see Brian and Frank on the same stage, as they both mean a lot to me – Frank Turner being another significant figure in my introduction to punk rock. The dream was fulfilled. Well, I couldn't see but I could hear. (There is decent video footage here.)

All-in-all it was a really great night, although I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much if Against Me! hadn't also been on the bill. I will miss The Gaslight Anthem immensely but they've led me to discover a hundred other bands and for that I thank them. Please excuse me while I go listen to The ’59 Sound, pretend it's 2008 and try not to get too emotional.