This spring has such a ridiculous amount of great shows coming up that I can hardly keep them all straight. The Gaslight Anthem‘s Detroit stop at The Fillmore on March 3 on their “Handwritten” spring tour was the kickoff of my concert season.
Starting off the night was Mississippi-native guitarist Cory Branan. He took the stage alone, playing songs about meaningless sex and whiskey. He’s on this tour, promoting his first album in six years, “Mutt” on Bloodshot Records. I’d never heard of him before, but after hearing songs like “The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis” (he says he “doesn’t fuck around with titles,” he gets to the point) and “A Girl Named Go,” I’ll be checking him out. So should you. His material reminds me a bit of Frank Turner, smart and cynical, only with a southern accent instead of a British one.
The Bouncing Souls went on next, opening with “Kids and Heroes” from their 2003 album “Anchors Aweigh.” The energy in the venue was outstanding, with everyone on their feet, crowd surfing and bouncing (no pun intended) along to the fast-paced, energetic set. Amongst their older, well known hits that the Bouncing Souls played like, “Hopeless Romantic” and “Kate Is Great,” they mixed in a few songs from their latest album that came out this past June, Comet, like “Coin Toss Girl” and “Ship In a Bottle.”
Gaslight Anthem front man Brian Fallon even ran out on stage to sing “Say Anything” along with them. The Bouncing Souls went out on a high note, just bumming the crowd out a bit that their chants of “Ole!” didn’t convince the band to play it. You couldn’t be too upset though, just watching singer Greg Attonito bop around is worthy of a smile.
Opening with “High Lonesome,” the Gaslight Anthem came out onstage with a bang. Their stage set up was covered in memorabilia from New Jersey sports teams, with a Detroit Tigers Prince Fielder jersey and a Red Wings t-shirt on display. Fallon told the crowd they’d just been eating at the legendary Hockeytown Café during a game played earlier that day, which sadly, the Wings lost.
Something that blows my mind every time I see them live is the passion that Fallon has while singing. There are some musicians that seem as if they’re just going through the motions, playing what people want to hear to satisfy the crowd and make their money. Fallon, however, really seems to mean every word he sings, and the power of their performances lie heavily on that.
The people at The Fillmore got their money’s worth, with the Gaslight Anthem playing a two-hour set, complete with songs dating back to their debut album, “Sink or Swim,” all the way to the most recent, “Handwritten.” They even played the title track from their 2008 EP “Senor and the Queen.”
They threw in a few covers, like “Once Upon a Time” by Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise and “Changing of the Guards” by Bob Dylan. It was a good mixture for the new fans that may only be familiar with their newer material, and the fans that’ve checked them out on every tour since 2007. The only low point of the Gaslight Anthem’s set was when the crowd playfully booed Fallon for saying he doesn’t know whether Detroit-native Bob Seger gets too much credit or not enough, and went on to make jokes about Seger.
A Gaslight Anthem set is never complete without a kickass encore. After closing the show with “Great Expectations,” chants of “one more song” brought them back out to play four more. “Here Comes My Man,” a cover of the Misfits’ “Astro Zombies,” “Mae,” and “The Backseat.”
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