Words: Justin Hulford.
This was our second visit to the Corn Exchange and it is still surprising that such a concrete box of a venue with a low ceiling can actually have good sound – it isn’t its reputation but it’s been two out of two for us.
Bayside kicked the night off and were a good four piece. The vocals were rich and interesting, elevating their relatively straight songs, although the backing vocals lacked much depth. A good enough start to an already packed house.
Next up were Deer Tick who just didn’t do it for me, as irritating as the real version of their name. They seemed to think they were very good indeed but every song seemed to drift in via various guitar fudges or other flaws. Then the songs didn’t go anywhere at all, the lead guitarist looking way too nerdy as he “rocked”, the bassist akin to Harry Potter’s square blond cousin. Only one track, a simple rockabilly cover, offered anything vaguely interesting and it was a relief when they moved on. The crowd wasn’t exactly shouting for more either!
But onto the main event. The Gaslight Anthem might be a little battered just now. I wasn’t alone in finding their last album a little bit of a let-down, although I have always preferred them live. They then seemed to fall foul of their fans when they started to offer a behind the scenes gig ticket, withdrawing it amid accusations of selling out. But live they have pretty much always delivered (one Brixton gig with awful sound aside).
They were a little late on and started with a purple lit slow song to catch us all off guard before firing into three or four of their well-loved tracks. The pace was quickly followed by more, the lighting guy seemingly on some sort of personal quest to dazzle us all with some often odd concoctions.
Brian Fallon did take a breath to tell us they were going to play through and not do an encore, due to the venue’s curfew so as to fit in one extra song. He said more in this speech than I have heard him say in six shows combined and surely they could have snuck in two extras!
The foot was back on the pedal quickly enough and the newer songs fitted in quite well, some life breathed into them on stage that was lacking on the CD. But I doubt many songs from Get Hurt will hang around for the years to come. Instead it was left to a real run of favourites to engage the crowd, even enticing a few crowd surfers to defy the venue’s rules.
Some people I know have seen this tour think this is the best they have been – they do sound a lot better but some of the raw energy is going from the act. Perhaps they are maturing! What they do deliver though is a night of well played edgy rock that is laden with sing-alongs and hooks. I think they are well and truly over the humps in the 2014 road now that they are back doing what they do best – playing live.