It's a relatively rare event to see a band unexpectedly perform a record in its entirety, and while The Gaslight Anthem didn't go quite that far on Thursday night at a John Varvatos store located at 315 Bowery (aka the former site of the legendary CBGB), they came pretty damn close.
Just a few days before the August 12 release of their fifth studio effort Get Hurt, the New Jersey quintet took the stage for what amounted to a (raucous) tune-up show of sorts. Debuting 12 tunes from the album, frontman Brian Fallon & Co. used the evening to introduce roughly 200 lucky attendees to a fresh, new album cycle that will be in full swing next month as they hit the road with Against Me! and Jimmy Eat World. Check out a full photo gallery from the show below.
Kicking off with '90s-grunge-tinged album opener "Stay Vicious" and moving straight into future crowd-pleaser "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" the band demonstrated straight away that the crowd wouldn't be hearing too much old material. Although they did bust out The '59 Sound's title track midway through their set and the fantastic "Great Expectations" near its end, The Gaslight Anthem focused on presenting their new effort to a crowd that appeared to be grateful for a chance to experience it.
"Rollin' and Tumblin'" should soon occupy the same spiritual presence in Gaslight sets where tunes like American Slang's "Orphans" and Handwritten's "Howl" currently reside–that is to say, a fiery burst of punk rock that pays homage to the band's roots. Most of Get Hurt is mid-tempo, soulful blues-rock. It's not overtly reminiscent of the band's most celebrated album, The '59 Sound, but it's full of rich tones and intense, first-person emotion. Gone are the days of Fallon singing about fictional characters like "The Cool" and the omnipresent "Maria," as he's moved onto what amounts to his break-up record. As Noisey's Dan Ozzi writes, Fallon recently divorced from his wife of 10 years, and Get Hurt finds him experiencing the pain of the split and attempting to recover from it.
That somber mood is most outwardly evident on songs like set highlight "Underneath the Ground," which brings to mind shades of Fallon's quieter side project, The Horrible Crowes, and moodier tracks like "Red Violins" and "Selected Poems."
Fallon's ability to mesh together nearly whisper-quiet soft melodies and gritty, shredding vocals shone brightly throughout the night, with "Helter Skeleton" and "Stray Paper" providing the best examples of his range. On a broad scale, their new material sees The Gaslight Anthem exploring a much more dynamic playing field than any previous release: the difference between the loud points and quiet points are greater, and the difference between the fast and slow moments is monumental in the pacing of these songs.
But what Get Hurt shows most is Fallon and the band's willingness to move away from the things that have brought them success. That's a bold move for a guitar-playing act on a major label. For example, there doesn't exist a single on Get Hurt with the high-voltage feel of Handwritten album opener "45," their most successful single to date. Instead, the band has opted out of the classic-rock-influenced anthems and has turned its attention inward, which showed strongly last night on Get Hurt's beautiful title track as Fallon murmured, "I came here to get hurt ... you might as well do your worst to me."
By the time Gaslight shut things down with a phenomenal rendition of "Dark Places"–their new album's closing track, and one that sounds a great deal like '59 Sound closer "The Backseat"–the sense of emotional finality that usually accompanies the departure of a Gaslight Anthem show was absent. Instead, the take-home vibe was one of genuine interest, the type that makes you go home and find out where you can buy new music, because you got a taste and now you need to fully sink your teeth into it. And with that, the final notes of last night's show ignited The Gaslight Anthem's next chapter.
Get Hurt is available on iTunes.