Monday, August 31, 2015

There's A Light That Never Goes Out

The Gaslight Anthem, 02 Shepherds Bush, 29th August 2015.

The title of this post is the second Smith’s reference I’ve made of late, which should probably tell you something, but as Brian Fallon and the boys pull the plug for the foreseeable future on the best live band of the past decade I feel a certain amount of melancholy is justified.

A capacity crowd jammed into what is arguably London’s’ best and worst concert venue (depending on which level you end up on) to see the final headline gig of New Jersey’s finest export since some guy called Bruce Springsteen turned up at the Hammersmith Odeon in ’75. I arrived fashionably late and on my own, rocking up halfway through the set of the night’s only support act, Against Me. Neither my lateness nor my lack of company had me in the best frame of mind to enjoy the evening, but 20 minutes or so chain sawing riffs and reverb turned out to be just what I needed. To be honest Against Me are not really my thing. Their brand of punk is too hard and heavy for me to enjoy in the comfort of my own home, but playing live they are a glorious crowd surfing mess of feedback-ridden angst and while they didn’t quite manage to convert me there is no denying the fact that they rock.
Next came a protracted interval while the crew set up the stage for the main event. For me this time was spent nursing an overpriced beer and joining the majority of the other patrons in a period of phone staring. Having recently returned from America, and Tennessee in particular I was struck once again by how insular and aloof we Brits tend to be when shoved into a room with strangers. Had this gig been in Nashville I don’t doubt that I would have known the entire life story of the guy next to me and he mine by the time the house lights dimmed again. But eventually they did dim and Gaslight Anthem took to the stage, kicking off with ‘Handwritten’, which was quickly followed by two more crowd pleasers ‘Rollin & Tumblin’ and the superb ‘Old White Lincoln’.

The band were undeniably tight, the sound superb and Brian’s vocals right on point as they mined their back catalogue, uncovering gems like ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Diamonds of The Church Street Choir’. Even so I couldn’t help thinking something was missing, (not least my usual companion as that last track is her favorite) and even a surprise appearance by Frank Turner on the slowed down version of ‘Great Expectations’ that is preferred live these days couldn’t shake the feeling that I was indeed witnessing the end of something. If the rest of the crowd sensed it too they did their best not to show it as the set built inexorably towards its climax with back-to-back classics in the shape of ‘American Slang’ and ‘45’ before the house was well and truly brought down by ’The '59 sound’.

There was nothing you could describe as an encore, Gaslight Anthem don’t really go in for that and before the raucous cheering had even begun to die down they launched headlong into their final song of the night. The usual closer ‘Backseats’ was replaced by ‘Diner,’ a standard at live shows for nearly 10 years now and a fitting way to end things. The audience joining in and their chants perhaps sending a message, both to each other and the band themselves as they head off on their uncertain hiatus.

It’s alright man, I’m only bleeding man, stay hungry, stay free and do the best you can.”

I very nearly didn’t go to this gig, but if this is to be the end of the road for The Gaslight Anthem then I’m glad I was there to see them go out on a high. If nothing else at least I can now answer the question posed by the lyrics of ’59 sound’ and say that, yes I did get to hear my favorite song one last time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The ramblings of an unquiet mind

"I smoke because I'm hoping for an early death, and I need to cling to something. "
That was Morrissey's take on it anyway, and once I might have been inclined to agree with him, but now I'm not so sure.

As I sit here in my budget hotel room ruminating on the universe and my small part in it, I realize that I am now officially closer to fifty than I am to forty.

I guess this means I may now be forced to accept the idea that if it’s not here already then middle age will very soon be upon me. This shit is not something I ever expected to happen to me, in truth I’m still kind of surprised I survived my twenties. However, having made it this far I find the prospect of getting older isn’t actually all that bad, and it’s certainly better than the alternative. For example I’ll soon be able to shake my fist and yell, “Get off my lawn” at small children (note to self: you need a lawn, find out how to get one. I think it may involve doing something with seeds.) I will also be freed from the burden of dress sense and finally able pull my pants up really high and who knows maybe even wear socks with sandals in public without being ridiculed. Okay, so maybe not that last one. But I do have a mid-life crisis to look forward to, which should net me a convertible or at the very least a new hipster hairstyle and a pair of skinny jeans.
So while being away from home and other regrets mean that I won’t be doing much in the way of celebrating this time, in fact I suspect the half-hour I spent getting a tooth filled the other day will turn out to be the highlight of my week, I am still grateful the devil has seen fit not to call in my marker just yet. I have a sneaky suspicion this is only because he’s having way too much fun watching me fuck up in this life, but you know what, screw him. It ain't like I was ever going to get out of this alive in any case.