As 2018 has proven over and over again, change is one of the few constants in life. From social attitudes to laws and leaders, almost everything evolves. But, if we're lucky, a few things we love stay the same for us, no matter how many times we keep coming back to them.
New Jersey rockers The Gaslight Anthem fall into that category, as Wednesday's tenth anniversary show of the band's sophomore album, The '59 Sound, proved. While the guys in the band may be older, the music itself is as tight and sentimental as ever — and the fans love it just as much, even if they're older, too.
Launched by vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon, lead guitarist Alex Rosamilia, drummer Benny Horowitz, and bassist Alex Levine, The Gaslight Anthem came out of New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2006 with a chip on their shoulder. Heavy with references to rock heroes like Joe Strummer, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, the band's 2007 debut, Sink or Swim — a delightfully rough-around-the-edges release grounded solidly in punk rock— put them on the map for modern punk fans that year.
The '59 Sound, however, became Gaslight's seminal album. Heavily nostalgic, the release feels like a modern classic, thanks to tape echo effects on Fallon's vocals, vintage equipment, and lyrical and musical references to an era long-since passed in America. Ten years later, fans' love for the album hasn't faded — in fact, the band's absence has only fueled that nostalgia after a years-long indefinite hiatus that began in 2015. The band returned in January with an announcement about their tour for The '59 Sound.
On Wednesday, few songs got as big a reaction from the crowd as tracks from the album, which Gaslight played through in full, in order. From the album's kickoff with "Great Expectations," a song that references Charles Dickens, to "The Backseat," a bittersweet take on the fade of summer and youth, Fallon could hardly be heard over the crowd.
Oddly, though, unlike with most Gaslight Anthem shows from the past, this one included no notable mosh pits. Instead, fans remained mostly relaxed, going only so far as to pump their fists along with songs, or dance around a little. Life experience, after all, tends to bring maturity, and most aging punk rockers (myself included) hung out in the back of the crowd.
Instead of ending their set with "The Backseat," the band pushed further into tracks from other releases, including Sink or Swim's "Boomboxes and Dictionaries," a heavy, rock-forward song that had Gaslight sounding a little tired, and "The Diamond Church Street Choir," an excellent, upbeat track from 2010's American Slang. Throughout the night, at least one song from each of the band's five studio album's got some stage time.
The band went 19 songs before frontman Fallon finally addressed the Philly audience, with the band taking a break after "Underneath the Ground" — the only track to be played from 2014's divisive Get Hurt on Wednesday. But rather than reflect on the 10 years that have passed since the release of The '59 Sound, or pander to Philly's love of the Eagles as is standard for touring acts, he told the audience about the time he met fellow New Jersey native Danny DeVito at an unspecified event.
"It was a weird interaction because I didn't know what to say," Fallon said. "I wanted to say, 'You're really funny on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,' but I think he knows that."
Following the story, an audience member asked Fallon if the band would be playing any covers, and suggested an Ed Sheeran tune. Fallon jokingly bristled at the suggestion, and instructed the audience to boo the show-goer after he played a riff from Prince's "When Doves Cry."
"Here's $10," Fallon said, reaching into his pocket for a wad of cash to hand some bills to the heckler. "Go buy Prince's greatest hits."
The audience member, however, threw the money back.
"You don't throw money back," Fallon said. "I was doing you a favor. Where's [Social Distortion frontman] Mike Ness when you need him? What are you, writing for Pitchfork? You're miserable."
Most other folks at the Fillmore on Wednesday, however, seemed pretty happy — members of the Gaslight Anthem included. The band went on to play several more songs for the set, including "45," "Howl," and "National Anthem" from 2012's Handwritten, the latter of which included an appearance from opener Matty Mays on vocals. Fellow opener Jared Hart, also from New Jersey, joined the band onstage for "We're Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner" from Sink or Swim.
The band ended the night with a particularly heartfelt performance of the eponymous track from 2010's American Slang, which has taken on a different, bleaker meaning in 2018 in Donald Trump's America.
"Look at the damage" Fallon sang. "The fortunes came for the richer men. While we're left with gallows, waiting for us liars to come down and hang. And when it was over, I woke up alone."
And with that, it was over. No encore, no lingering — just a "thank you" and "good night" from the band like they never left. In some ways, despite that 2015 hiatus, they never did, at least when it comes to their fans hearts and minds, judging by the packed house on Wednesday singing along to every track.
But despite how well the band was received on tour, the Gaslight Anthem's reunion run is coming to an end. This weekend, the band will play a few final shows bin Asbury Park, where they cut their teeth as a budding punk band back in 2006. After that, the band has said, it will be all over — no new material is planned.
"You take any band, you look at the Replacements or look at various other bands who kind of, at a point, go, 'All right, well that's pretty good, let's maybe leave it there,'" Fallon said on the Fan Theory podcast earlier this year. "But then they still go and they can play shows and celebrate what they've done while they maybe feel like they don't have anything else to add to it. There's kind of a ceremonial beauty in that. You can look at it and go, 'Oh, remember this? This is cool.'"
For the foreseeable future, that's what Gaslight Anthem fans will have to do. Until the next reunion, at least.
2. "Old Haunts"
5. "Great Expectations"
6. "The '59 Sound"
7. "Old White Lincoln"
8. "High Lonesome"
9. "Film Noir"
10. "Miles Davis & The Cool"
11. "The Patient Ferris Wheel"
12. "Casanova, Baby! "
13. "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"
14. "Meet Me By the River's Edge"
15. "Here's Looking At You Kid"
16. "The Backseat"
17. "Boomboxes and Dictionaries"
18. "The Diamond Church Street Choir"
19. " Underneath the Ground"
22. "The Queen of Lower Chelsea"
23. "National Anthem"
24. "We're Getting A Divorce, You Keep the Diner"