The Gaslight Anthem

support Chuck Ragan + Sharks
author PP date 28/10/10 venue Kulturbolaget, Malmö, SWE

The Gaslight Anthem have a much larger fanbase in Denmark than in Sweden, apparently, based on the level of attendance at their Malmö show versus the one in Copenhagen. Whereas the latter was sold out within two weeks of announcement, KB was only about halfway filled to its maximum capacity of 750 people. It makes sense, however, when you consider that the Danish population at large is more into mainstream units and the Swedes are known for their taste of the underground instead. In tow with them, The Gaslight Anthem had brought the legendary Hot Water Music vocalist Chuck Ragan along, a huge reason why the Rockfreaks.net envoy chose to make it across the Øresund to this show, and a critically acclaimed UK rock/punk outfit Sharks.

Sharks

Sharks come on stage not sharing much of the look of your typical punk rock band, but it takes all but a dozen seconds to a song before they show their true colours. They sound just like a 90s pop punk band, complete with the rough edges around the guitars and a vocalist with loads of scratchy character in his voice. Kind of like a cross between The Movielife and The Gaslight Anthem, I'd say. The songs themselves are very good, thanks to the songwriting appearing to be more punk centric than pop, so they come across as honest and easily-enjoyable almost without trying. They definitely have potential for more, but a lackluster stage performance combined with movement and appearance which have everyone in the crowd wondering whether the various members of the band are substance abusers leaves them merely sounding cool, but much to be desired for in the performance department.

6

Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan owns one of the most recognizable voices in punk rock, a thick and gravelly roar that made Hot Water Music a key act in the development of the modern incarnation of the genre. He has enough passion and a strong enough voice to sound and appear dominating on stage even when he's all by himself, though most of the time he's supported by his trusty friend on the violin. It says a lot that in my notes for the review, I jotted down the word passion several times independently of each other, because watching this guy roar on stage to the point that spit is flying everywhere at the end of every lyric personifies it in my book. Plus, the fact that he's also able to play acoustic guitar, and sometimes even harmonica simultaneously says a lot about his instrumental talent. It's all very, VERY honest and down-to-earth as you'd expect, but in a room full of people who don't know/appreciate/know of Chuck Ragan, loud chatter soon becomes a distraction and the set doesn't feel as special as I personally wanted it to be. He plays lots and lots of old songs, which seem to be in the focus today, and unless I missed it right at the beginning, he leaves out "Glory" entirely out. At least "Rotterdam" sounded fantastic.

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The Gaslight Anthem

It doesn't take long before Gaslight Anthem take to the stage given how little gear Chuck Ragan has to deal with, but the sooner the better anyway, because based on my pre-show stalking of previous dates on this tour, Gaslight were about to perform about every single song in their discography, even the older and more obscure ones from their debut EP. They don't quite manage it all, but 23 songs is still about 10 more than most bands play when headlining in a smaller club like this one. There's heavy focus on "American Slang" and "The '59 Sound", both of which are played almost entirely tonight, but I just can't help but get the impression that the crowd doesn't really care much for the band. Only the big singles and the older tracks receive any sort of sing-along, otherwise people are chatting and content at just staring at the stage while standing still. It shouldn't affect a band like Gaslight, but vocalist Brian Fallon isn't in a very talkative mood today, only taking short breaks in between the songs, as opposed to the small-state story-telling he usually engages in. Still, you can't but admire how casual the band are when playing live in a club environment - they are much tighter than in any festival show I've seen by them. This and the sheer quality of most of their songs lifts the show to a high rating, even though I still maintain that tonight's not one of the best nights on this tour.

Setlist:

1. Great Expectations

2. Stay Lucky

3. We Came To Dance

4. The Diamond Church Street Choir

5. Old White Lincoln

6. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

7. 1930

8. Film Noir

9. Bring It On

10. Miles Davis And The Cool

11. The Queen Of Lower Chelsea

12. The Spirit Of Jazz

13. Señor And The QUeen

14. I'da Called You Woody, Joe

15. Angry Johnny And The Radio

16. Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?

17. The '59 Sound

--Encore--

18. She Loves You

19. American Slang

20. Boxer

21. High Lonesome

22. Here's Looking At You Kid

23. The Backseat

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