Reviewed by Adam Smith
The Gaslight Anthem‘s stock has skyrocketed over recent years. Debut album Sink Or Swim was highly regarded by punk purists, before The ’59 Sound transformed Brian Fallon and co into chart botherers, a status later consolidated by American Slang and their latest release Handwritten.
Tonight’s Manchester Apollo show sold out within hours, illustrating the band’s wide-ranging appeal in the UK. Nonetheless, before the New Jersey heroes hit the stage, Blood Red Shoes aim to whet the anticipation of the crowd.
Far removed from The Gaslight Anthem’s soulful punk sound, Blood Red Shoes instead focus on a no-frills rock approach and put in a commendable performance. The trio gain a respectful if not enthusiastic ovation from spectators, who are undoubtedly here solely for the headliners.
There’s a sense that The Gaslight Anthem could be the natural successors to Bruce Springsteen, garnering admiration from a range of different audiences. As they launch into the ethereal “Mae“, it’s arguable that their status as stadium conquerors will soon be reached.
Fallon’s signature raspy vocals sound strained for the opening few tracks, showing the residual effects of their touring. “The’59 Sound” is not the mammoth anthem that it usually is tonight, but an awe-inspiring rendition of “Mulholland Drive” soon follows, gloriously putting the performance back on track.
The set borrows heavily from Handwritten tonight, indicating the band’s belief in their new tracks which, for the most part, are ideally suited to the live environment.
Long-time fans of the band are appeased with airings of “Señor and the Queen“, “Wooderson” and “Angry Johnny and the Radio“, while many of the hits from ‘59 Sound leave the crowd in raptures. “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” is arguably the highlight of tonight’s set, unifying the audience in one passionate sing-along.
The only mistake by The Gaslight Anthem tonight is their choice of encore, featuring a B-side and a cover that serve to bemuse many, before “The Backseat” wraps up proceedings in wonderful style, reminding the crowd just why the band are hotly tipped to become festival headliners in the future.