The Gaslight Anthem released their debut record in 2007. Over the next 7 years Brian Fallon, Alex Rosamilia, Alex Levine, and Benny Horowitz established themselves as one of America’s great rock bands. After announcing an indefinite hiatus in 2015, the band performed a short string of shows in 2018. They are now back as a full-time band, along with touring guitarist Ian Perkins and keyboardist Bryan Haring, and brought their triumphant return tour to Wallingford, CT.
The night began with a set by Texas-based guitarist Emily Wolfe. Wolfe led her trio through a fuzz-drenched set that had the general admission audience dancing along with her.
Next up was the New York rock band Oso Oso, the brainchild of guitarist and singer Jade Lilitri.
Around 9:30, it was time for the long-awaited Connecticut return of The Gaslight Anthem. I last saw the band in Providence, RI in early 2015, after they announced they would be going on hiatus at the end of the tour. At that point, it felt like you were watching a band starting to fall apart. As they took the stage now to the Handwritten lead-off track “45”, it was clear that the hunger and drive that propelled this band was back, and the packed audience fed off of it immediately.
While the band did perform their recent single “Positive Charge”, there was no other new material to play. This tour is about celebrating the legacy of the band and reconnecting with a loyal fanbase that waited patiently for them to find their way back to each other. Each member was in top form with frontman Fallon leading the charge and keeping the mood light with various stories throughout the night.
On what is essentially a Greatest Hits tour, the band has been slightly changing the set each night. While it is somewhat impossible to get a bad Gaslight Anthem set, this night was a particularly strong one. A slightly longer than normal set with the addition of “Get Hurt”, the band touched on each record, concentrating mainly on their two biggest successes, 2008’s The ’59 Sound and 2012’s Handwritten. It was a perfectly paced set that saw transitions from the more mellow, like “Mullholand Drive” to the driving “We Came to Dance”, which everyone in the crowd did.
While it’s easy to peg Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty as huge influences on the band, Fallon took some time early in the set to point out that they are children of the 90s and grew up on the music of that decade. To emphasize the point, the band, led by touring keyboardist Bryan Haring and Fallon, performed a sublime version of the Mother Love Bone ballad “Chloe Dancer” followed by Alice In Chains’ all-out rocker (and tribute to late Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood) “Would?”. Normally, I would rather see a band play their own songs. However, if you are going to play covers, pick amazing songs and play the hell out of them, and that is exactly what the band did.
The night came to a feverish crescendo with a run of “Howl”, “American Slang”, and “Great Expectations” that had the crowd singing, dancing, and crowd surfing. As the last notes of “Great Expectations” hung in the air, Fallon brought back Emily Wolfe and quieted things down with “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” before kicking into another gear with “The ’59 Sound”. The set ended as triumphantly as it started with “The Backseat”.
The songs of The Gaslight Anthem and Brian Fallon, much like heroes Springsteen and Petty, create a personal atmosphere where you as a listener find yourself in the words and lose yourself in the music. It’s not a room full of strangers to see a band, it’s brothers and sisters there to all share an experience only they know and can appreciate. Everyone in that room could give you their life story through a Gaslight Anthem playlist. On this night, we found ourselves, found each other, and welcomed back friends that were sorely missed.