Gaslight rockers keep up great expectations

The Gaslight Anthem ****** (6 stars out of 6); April 3 at Store Vega

The last time I saw The Gaslight Anthem was at Roskilde Festival in 2009. Having released their breakthrough record The 59' Sound,  the animated young quartet were quickly rising to stardom at an unprecedented pace. Their concert back then was full of spirit, professionalism, and memorable songs that latch themselves on to you – great American rock.

This time, a more seasoned The Gaslight Anthem performed to a packed Vega and with four critically acclaimed records to choose from, the expectations were sky high. The Gaslight Anthem did not disappoint, however – they were better than ever.

Another good reason to join The Gaslight Anthem's show was the promise of an extended opening act in the form of Vancouver-based duo Japandroids. As promised, the young duo played an hour of garage punk, which woke the audience up from their slumber. A duo with such captivating energy is a rare sight, and the guitarist Brian King handled the electric guitar as John Butler does the acoustic counterpoint: an immense display of distorted guitars with massive use of refrain, penetrating the ribcages of all.

After a 30-minute intermission, the jam-packed Vega was well liquored up and ready to receive the headliners. As darkness flooded the auditorium, the unmistakable drum intro to Guns n Roses' ‘Paradise City’ rang through the audience. Initially I snickered a bit, thinking: ‘This must be a joke, has their fame gone to their head?’ Thankfully this intro was quickly aborted, and the audience was swept into the crowd pleaser ‘High Lonesome’, followed by ‘Old White Lincoln’ and ‘The 59 Sound’, all from their breakthrough record. Despite some early glitches, their sound was quickly fixed.

Brian Fallon, the vocalist and songwriter, was as enthusiastic as ever, and eagerly responded to the audience’s impulsive requests, joking around with a justified cheekiness. It was a thrill to see the frontman smile so much, despite having been on tour for an endless time. His performance was near perfect, his voice soared across the arena and proved his worth on classic tracks such as ‘Mulholland Drive’ and ‘Great Expectations’.

Fallon also decided to inspire the audience with some classic 90s covers: a medley that consisted of Nirvana's ‘Sliver’, Stone Temple Pilots’, ‘Interstate Love Song’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘State of Love and Trust’. Not only is Fallon a fantastic singer, he has an innate ability to make beautifully simple rock songs that form themselves like narratives. A prime example of this was ‘Here’s Looking At You, Kid’, which was performed brilliantly in Store Vega. To seal the evening, The Gaslight Anthem performed ‘Baba O'Riley’ by The Who, to the surprise of many, which was hands-down the best rendition of the classic that I have ever witnessed.

The Gaslight Anthem are a solid rock band, and it's easy to understand why they are often compared to stars like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. While they are from a different time, they are the most promising hope in continuing a great tradition of American rock music. Their performance on Wednesday night was one of the best shows of 2013 thus far.