When I think of New Jersey I think of rain. I’m not sure why; Springsteen, Pinsky and countless movies depict a colourless state hounded by chequered shirts that to my knowledge have never been fashionable. But what do I know? When I reach Nottingham, the heavy downpour and ferocious winds that greet me are reminiscent to my imaginings, so I’m glad to find shelter and see why The Gaslight Anthem have become one of the most talked about bands in recent times.
Before that, Polar Bear Club do little to convince me that it will take them a mere two-and-a-half years to encapsulate half of the praise heaped on tonight’s headline act, not with their lackadaisical melodies and failure to write one barely noteworthy tune. This band are clearly punching above their weight and having the time of their lives regardless.
Meanwhile, Frank Turner ought to be massive. Rock City is hit by an unfathomable and lethal plague as students swarm around me, armed with opinions and pints of weak lager. Unlike those that come to gigs just for a scuffle, here the audience bow to the deity, the older brother they always wished they had as he belts out his mellifluous melodies overflowing with lyrical insights they’ve yet to experience.
‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot’, ‘Photosynthesis’ and the heavenly ‘Long Live The Queen’ stand out as Turner’s extended family of about a few hundred fail, despite their joyous attempts, to drown out this impressively likeable artist. It will come as no surprise to see the majority of this audience return in October to see him headlining.
Surrounded by chequered shirts I once again feel out of place; why is it that during the eighties when I wore said garment I received the same unwanted looks I’m getting now I’m not wearing one? I just want to hear the band, okay?
Front-man Brian Fallon has never hid his excitement at his band’s rapid rise from obscurity, but tonight, for the first four songs at least, it just seems like he wants to play his songs and go home. Track-wise it’s a strong start; from the opener ‘Great Expectations’ to the soulful ‘Even Cowgirls Get The Blues’ Fallon and the rest of the band do what they do best, and although the performance is faultless, I can’t help but wish for a bit of camaraderie.
That soon changes when ‘The 59’ Sound’ kicks in, Fallon becoming more confident and endearingly friendly, relishing the requests for a Springsteen cover or two, confident enough in his bands own material despite being heavily influenced by a legend they will support at Hyde Park in the summer. ‘Miles Davis & The Cool’ and ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid’ prove that TGA have welcome layers to explore whilst ‘The Backseat’, ‘I’da Called You Woody, Joe’ and ‘Casanova, Baby!’ finish a rousing performance of twenty-one gratifying numbers the audience have enjoyed hearing almost as much as the band have playing.
They may be grateful just to be here but it’s not their likeability that puts them head and shoulders above the rest; tonight’s performance showcased timeless tunes flawlessly executed, and although they wear their influences on their chequered shirts, The Gaslight Anthem will soon be imitated in their own right. It’s doubtful whether they will be bettered.