Live Review: The Gaslight Anthem – Manchester

Live Review: The Gaslight Anthem – O2 Apollo, Manchester
22nd March 2024
Support: Emily Wolfe
Words: Dan Barnes
Photos: Tim Finch

I find myself on the horns of a dilemma this evening as the stars and planets have aligned in such a way as to have The Gaslight Anthem paying a visit to Manchester on the same night as Stiff Little Fingers have rolled up at the Academy. Decisions, decisions. I’ll be seeing SLF in August and I’ve less than a handful of TGA shows to my name, so it’s off to the Apollo, and wish all those at the Academy a good show.

Texan, Emily Wolfe provides support, and she takes the stage with her two-man rhythm section, straps on and kicks into an engrossing set, filled with grungy rockers and heart-felt, but never twee, insights into her life and experiences. Rules to Bend comes with some scratchy harmonics and takes a jammed-out route, while Second of Relief goes for a more direct approach.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

This is Ms Wolfe’s first foray into Europe and she goes for the flattery approach of stating “Everyone’s prettier over here”, which brings a cheer. She straps on a dual-neck like it’s the Eighties all over again, for a cover of T-Rex’s The Slider, where she focuses on the upper, twelve-string neck; moving lower for the darker Silencer.

Emily is afforded ten songs, and she uses half of that allocation to look at her most recent record, The Blowback. Rock Bottom on a High Wire, Dead End Luck and Walk in My Shoes mix in with earlier tunes Holy Roller, Ghost Limb Gambler and Hopeless to show Ms Wolfe’s versatility and range; moving from an Alternative 90s sound, to cranking guitars and fierce riffs, to pure Rock N’ Roll. In many ways she is the perfect opening act for The Gaslight Anthem, in both sound and overall aesthetic.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

It is for greater minds than mine to ponder the reason why The Gaslight Anthem isn’t touring the world’s stadia by this point. They have the energy and tunes of Foo Fighters and a sound (as well as the endorsement) of Bruce Springsteen. Yet, they seem to be one of music’s best kept secrets, which I’m aware of the oxymoron in that statement, as they’re playing a sold-out Apollo.

Lita Ford’s Kiss Me Deadly is the intro tape, as the band take the stage and strap on their instruments. Lita’s barely having a few beers and getting high by the time Positive Charge rears it raucous head and TGA show themselves to be the equal of any ripping punk band out there for the delivery of sheer, unadulterated energy.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

The core four-piece are joined by an addition guitar and keys, fattening up the sound and giving wider scope of added embellishments. Handwritten’s intro takes the roof off the Apollo and voices are raised to accompany Brian Fallon’s for what is a firm favourite from the back catalogue.

Back in 2018, the band played this venue after an indefinite hiatus, in celebration of The ’59 Sound album, and Old White Lincoln is one of only three tunes from that record to be aired tonight, though the singalong sections find Manchester in fine voice.

As this is a tour in promotion of the History Books record, we get the slow, tragic I Live in the Room Above Her, followed by the cover of Billie Eilish’s Ocean Eyes which features on the History Books companion EP, Short Stories, released this very day.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

Possibly, one of the reasons for Gaslight’s lack of wider success is the subject matter they write about. Across their half dozen albums, the tracks deal with ideas of loss and pain. Whether that loss be personal, spiritual or emotional, there is an inherent pathos in the whole of their canon which might not be everyone’s cup-o-tea.

Ms Wolfe returns to assist on a gorgeously lush, four-guitar version of The Weatherman and a reworking of the earlier Blue Jeans & White T-Shirt, before which Brian gives a quick overview of the economic divide of the place he lives.

As the set starts to enter its final strait with Mulholland Drive, damn-near the whole of the theatre is on its feet. The Patient Ferris Wheel and Boomboxes and Dictionaries make sure that remains and only the poignant Michigan, 1975 slows the pace.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

As that song winds down, lead guitarist, Alex Rosamilla is seen swapping out his guitar for a Flying-V, leading to an unexpected run-through of Metallica’s Sad But True introduction as Gaslight’s opening salvos of their own American Slang.

Rather than go through the charade of Encore, the band stay put, knowing that Manchester already belongs to them and the energy in the room is at fever pitch. There’re a few tears in the eyes for American Slang, more so on 45 and the set ends with, inevitably, The ’59 Sound itself.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

Earlier in the show Brian had challenged Manchester to outdo Sheffield from the night before, and that comes to fruition on the “Young boys / Young girls” section.

Even though Stiff Little Fingers played Last Train from the Wasteland I have no regrets at spending my evening with The Gaslight Anthem. My only issue is, with The Stranglers last week and now this, I’m already conflicted over which will make be my Gig of the Year. And it’s not even April.

Photo Credit: Tim Finch Photography

Photo credits: Tim Finch Photography

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