Generally when you experience any sort of live music, it falls into two categories. You have the small, intimate gigs that have a friendly sociable atmosphere, which feel like a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s moments like these where it would hardly be surprising if the act bought a round of drinks at the end of the set and spent hours hanging out with their fans. At the other end of the scale you have massive stadium tours and festival crowds. You are but a tiny speck in a galaxy of faces staring with adoration at some larger than life music idol. As I stood in the magnificent Alexandra Palace that fateful autumn evening it struck me that I was experiencing a bizarre mix of the two.
Having already spent a busy, fun-filled day in London I arrived slightly late, but I wasn’t too bothered about missing the support act as they often turn out to be disappointing. Having caught the end of Deer Ticks’ set I can definitively say that I was wrong! With each note they played you could tell that the band was raised on a healthy diet of country & western and delta blues as they crafted it into their own brand of alternative rock. The only thing their music was lacking was a hook; once these lads get to grips with some anthemic choruses then there will be no stopping them. In all honesty though, the main likable factor wasn’t the music, but rather the lead singer’s suit which appeared to be made from leftover material that was salvaged from a 70s upholsterers.
It was far from a small crowd, but the mass of people was dwarfed by the sheer size of the venue. I easily managed to get to the front and had more than my fair share of elbow room when I got there. The lads from The Gaslight Anthem didn’t give us chance to swing cats about though as they soon appeared onstage. My friend, a massive fan, had assured me a setlist that was entirely different from all the other stops on their tour and frontman Brian Fallon quickly promised us that there would be no encore. They didn’t see the point the whole farce of keeping their audience waiting and instead they were just going to keep playing for as long as possible. Mere minutes into the show I could already tell that something special was occurring.
I’ve always thought that their lyrics were some of the most heartfelt in the business and the songs were performed with such love and conviction. You could feel how much fun they were having on the more upbeat numbers like the landmark hit ‘The 59 Sound’ and you could hear the pain in Brian’s voice as he sang the title track of their latest album ‘Get Hurt’. Music is clearly one of the most important things in their lives, as is sharing it with the masses – as it should be! There were plenty of energetic crowd pleasers amongst the setlist, in their own brand of ‘Punk-Springsteen’, but the highlight of the night was the acoustic rendition of ‘Great Expectations’. It was a magical evening; the venue, the audience, the sheer energy and emotion of the performance. Their latest album may not have been up to the same standard as the previous one, ‘Handwritten’, but live they are in peak form and are one of the most genuine bands in the business.