The Gaslight Anthem at O2 Academy Birmingham 21.8.2022 with Chris Farren supporting
After a bit of a post-Rebellion Festival breather in this hectic gig-going year, stretched by the tube, bus and rail strikes scuppering a Brixton Bauhaus gig, I’m back on the road to see The Gaslight Anthem.
O2 Academy Birmingham
Located at the top of the main Bristol Road, on the intersection with the inner ring road on the south side of the city centre is the O2 Academy. A half mile walk from New Street station. When I lived up here it was known at The Night Out and then The Dome. I never went there in those days – a bit flash for a student. I did get to the O2 Academy once in June 2018 to see Billy Idol and The Professionals when I returned to Brum with gig buddy Dave on our 8 gigs in 8 days tour. (Here with Dave again tonight – we were both students up here in the early 80s.)
There are two smaller venues here but the main one we are in this evening has a 3009 capacity, with 600 of those being in the balcony – a quite shallow sloped balcony around three sides of the square shaped dancefloor downstairs. It’s that balcony we are in tonight. We are in soon after the doors open which allows choice of front row seats which are unreserved. Great view.
Usual O2 drinks offering with the Shipyard Ale doing the job for me. Yes it’s bit pricey but getting in early to the balcony pays its own dividends.
Chris Farren supporting
Chris Farren is a singer songwriter playing electric, at times eccentric, guitar. I presume he doesn’t expect to be taken seriously – why else would the words ‘guitar solo’ appear on a screen behind him when he does one.
From Florida, three albums and a bit of comedy in there. He passes the time – there is one amusing song with video animation behind on the makeshift small screen. It’s about quitting your job, Domain Lapse, with images of bodies falling from clouds. That was the height of the short set for me.
A lot of echo being used and his fast talking American voice is not that audible. I can’t really understand the audience’s enthusiasm for the set. Even with the jokey makeshift screen powerpoint reminding me of his acheivement in the ‘summing up’ I remain unconvinced – bemused even, but then post-Covid support acts have seen a lot of lower risk one-person acts or no support at all.
The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem come on around 9.15pm: a practical undramatic entrance. They plug in and they’re off. It’s a full and solid sound with four guitars including the bass, plus the drums and keyboards. The keyboardist and one of the guitarists are touring additions to the four-piece band.
Frontman Brian Fallon is the talker as well as the main singer and lyricist. He had a three year break as a solo artist 2019-21. There haven’t been any new Gaslight albums since an earlier break in proceedings in 2016-17 so material comes from their five albums released 2007-2014. My pick is Handwritten (2012) and seven of the 21 song setlist are from that album which is welcome, the best being the title track which second song in.
A few songs later, Fallon stops and stares and he waits for the band to get ready: “we can just stand here and stare at you – it cuts both ways you know – stick that on Instagram, freaks!” All in good humour. He toys with a couple in the balcony who don’t look that close and keeps returning to them for amusement.
They’re sound is from New Jersey. It gets a few labels but it’s American rock – Homeland rock – a hint of Springsteen, a friendly Kings of Leon, early REM, essence of Pearl Jam.
Not much by way of introduction to many songs and no pomp. They just get on and play their great sounds. The set rocks along with high points, the odd crowd surfer and they wrap up with 45 and the excellent ‘59 Sound…..captured and saved to my YouTube channel.
No encores. Job done and off they go. Time for a new album maybe. It’s been a while.