The Gaslight Anthem thrashed the stage of the Electric Factory Nov. 27 amid a full house of fans. The five-piece act from New Brunswick, N.J., was supported by Chester County native Matthew Ryan and punk band The Menzingers from Scranton, Pa.
A soft, ambient chord, surrounded by gritty, desperate vocals brought the crowd together at 8 p.m. as Ryan took the stage. Outside in the smokers’ section, fans of all breeds huddled in the cold. A family of three recollected on “Angry Johnny and the Radio,” a creation of Gaslight Anthem frontman Brian Fallon from the album “Senor and the Queen.” They tried to convey the memories and emotions that the song captured, and though I had my own interpretations, it was generally agreed that the band’s songwriting set them apart from the overly cliche “radio rock” that floods the music industry.
Don’t believe me? Ask Bruce Springsteen.
The Boss has shared the stage with Gaslight many times in recent years, and the New Jersey natives often share stories, words of advice, and praise for each other’s work.
With influences ranging from the Boss to The Clash to Pearl Jam, The Gaslight Anthem kicks stereotypes in the teeth and bends and blends genres to create the unique sound that has carried through their five studio albums.
After The Menzingers pumped up the crowd, barreling through their 13-song set and leaping all across the stage, The Electric Factory buzzed with anticipation. A group of three stood by the door, hardly able to contain their excitement. When asked which song they wanted to hear most, a unanimous “All of them!” was all they could muster, until they later decided that the older songs were definitely more desirable. These guys traveled from Cleveland just for the love of music.
Next to them stood the principal of a local middle school, bouncing on the balls of his feet, waiting to hear the music that resonated with so many different groups of people.
Recent college graduates sat at the bar, enjoying the free tickets that they won from Radio 104.5, the concert’s sponsor.
They cheerily talked of the newest Gaslight Anthem album, “Handwritten,” which features some of the most moving guitar riffs and tortured screams that the boys have ever put together. Masterfully recorded and mixed, this album pulls further away from the original records that feature very straightforward songwriting and lo-fi recording.
Fallon (vocals and guitar), Alex Rosamilia (guitar), Alex Levine (bass) and Benny Horowitz (percussion) took the stage and rocked through the night.
Their 26-song set paused rarely, only to thank the other musicians and to lead the crowd in a remorseful chant about the loss of the NHL hockey season and playoff beards everywhere. Always entertaining, extremely well-spoken, and pitch-perfect throughout, Fallon led his band through classics like “Miles Davis and the Cool” and “The Backseat.” About halfway through, something magical happened. “Angry Johnny and the Radio” went into an interlude, and out came a cover of Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank.”
The crowd went nuts. Sweaty bodies pulsated and swayed, clapped and cheered, and showed the artists the enthusiasm that we Philly fans are capable of showing. The crowd surfers rode atop the energy, and eventually the band had to remind everyone that nobody likes being kicked in the head, so they needed to keep the dancing on the ground.
As usual, this did little to deter the rowdy fans, and new hits like “Mulholland Drive” and “Blue Dahlia” weren’t helping.
After collaboration with Ryan for “I Can’t Steal You” and “Astro Zombies,” a Misfits cover, The Gaslight Anthem ended on a high note, belting out “Great Expectations.” An exhausted crowd left with great memories, a few bruises and a renewed respect for the music that brought them there.