A common complaint about the Phoenix live music scene is fan apathy. A show may be sold out, but many fans will keep their arms crossed and not move around much.
That was not the case at Marquee Theatre Tuesday night. The Gaslight Anthem's fanbase showed what live music should be about. No matter how old or new a song was, they sang along enthusiastically all night.
This show was also a reminder of why I got into this profession. Sure, it's awesome to go to a bunch of concerts with camera in hand, but all too often I've been underwhelmed by some of my favorite bands. Most shows are decent or good, leaving terrible and amazing concerts to fall on opposite ends of the bell curve.
At their best, concerts are interactive experiences. Just about anyone can learn to play guitar and write mediocre songs, but it takes skill and talent to find that something special that resonates with an audience after the tinnitus wears off. Nostalgic rockers The Gaslight Anthem have that quality. Some shows are better than others, but last night's performance could very well have been the best of the six shows I've seen them put on.
Read More: The Gaslight Anthem's Benny Horowitz talks Handwritten and SB 1070. The Gaslight Anthem @ Marquee Theatre, 4/23/13 (Slideshow)
And the biggest difference from those shows -- at Mesa Amphitheatre, Martini Ranch, Clubhouse, and even Tuesday night's venue, the Marquee Theatre -- was the crowd's response. Fans were deafening during songs like "45" and "Great Expectations," which are truly anthemic. Joining in with a chorus of strangers is a powerful feeling -- the only things that come close are singing church hymns or loudly (and poorly) singing in the shower when nobody else is home.
The Gaslight Anthem sounded solid, as they usually do. Singer/guitarist Brian Fallon changed the pacing of some songs and allowed fans to sing in his place at times, in the case of "Here Comes My Man." Fallon showed his strengths as a solo artist with "National Anthem" and "She Loves You," a b-side from American Slang.
The song selection varied, from high energy performances of songs like "We Came to Dance" and "The '59 Sound" to the slow burn of sexy, bluesy jams such as "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," Film Noir," and "Mulholland Drive."
Not everyone was feeling the love, though. Before The Gaslight Anthem took the stage, a couple of guys got into a shoving match, and not five minutes later a couple got into a heated argument. After The Gaslight Anthem opened with "High Lonesome," Fallon addressed someone in the crowd and told them their behavior was inappropriate. "I've got all night," he said, adding that he didn't like the vibe as some girl shouted about what some guy was doing. After a few songs, tensions eased and Fallon sang, smirking, to the joyous crowd.
"I like you people. I don't want you to come over, but I like you. You're like an in-law," Fallon said, expressing his gratitude for the Tuesday night crowd before the encore. The band usually closes out with "The Backseat," but added one last surprise with a fantastic cover of The Who's "Baba O'Riley," seen here:
The '59 Sound
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
Here Comes my Man
We Came to Dance
Miles Davis and the Cool
The Patient Ferris Wheel
Too Much Blood
The Queen of Lower Chelsea
She Loves You
Here's Lookin' at you Kid
Baba O'Riley (The Who cover)
Last Night: The Gaslight Anthem at Marquee Theatre.
Personal Bias: It should be obvious. A friend commented on a picture of me and a few gal pals at the show and called us the Brian Fallon fan club.
The Crowd: Lots of Gaslight Anthem shirts in the crowd, but none of them were for sale last night. If you're going to break the band t-shirt rule, you might as well wear an old shirt.
Overheard in the Crowd: "It's like going to a place that's not her place, but a place where she cat-sits, like The Hold Steady," said Fallon, with a sly reference to "Sequestered in Memphis."
Random Notebook Dump: Watching Brian Fallon lip synch to "I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight" before the show started made my week.
One More Thing: "1930" wasn't on the printed setlist, so the guy in the Latterman shirt's (continued) request was heard.