After the UK ground to a complete halt because of a few measly inches of snow, the first date of this tour got cancelled. It didn't bother me, though, because it meant the show I was going to in Birmingham became the opening show of a tour which, by the end, will have looped around most of Western Europe, hitting 12 countries, before ending back up in UK again next month.
Anyway, before I begin, I will point out that I have deliberately reviewed the show backwards. Why? No, not because I'm being pretentious or making a profound statement about the fickleness of music fans or a protest against the rapid ascension of the tour headliners the Gaslight Anthem, but simply because everyone reading this has either a) already seen Gaslight live or b) already read multiple reviews of their live show.
So, last out came the Gaslight Anthem. I was slightly bemused by the fact that they had towels put out on stage by their roadie during the soundcheck. I mean, towels? Are towels punk rock? I don't think so. Maybe Towelie from South Park is, but that's about it. Anyway, leaving towels behind us, Gaslight gave everything you can expect from a live Gaslight show: excellence. After taking a few songs to warm up themselves and warm up the crowd, "The '59 Sound" saw the place go mental and the charged atmosphere remained throughout their set, which was played at breakneck speed. There was still time, however, for Brian Fallon to reinforce his reputation for saying weird things on stage, the quote of the night being "I like Australians...you know they fight kangaroos?" A three-song encore including "Boomboxes and Dictionaries" brought the curtain down on a great night.
But before the Gaslight had hit the stage, one of the most exciting and fantastic talents the UK has to offer strolled on stage. With just a cheap chequered shirt and an electro-acoustic guitar, Frank Turner whizzed through a collection of old and new songs to a room of adoring fans. A bonus treat for the audience came in the form of a new song titled "Try This at Home," from his next album (which he revealed would be out in September). The song was fantastic -- a fast-paced rant against the predictability of the musical world and 'rockstar celebrities' (I think, although I might be wrong after just one listen). I'm gutted I'll probably have to wait over six months to hear it again. All in all, Frank was flawless, putting his heart and soul into every word as he took the audience on a tour of anger, friendship, love, hate, hope, reflection and loss. If he ever comes to a town near you (and with his touring credentials he probably will), just make sure you go.
First Out? Polar Bear Club, for their first ever show in the UK. I'll be honest, whilst I'm familiar with the band's music, I had no idea what they looked like and frontman Jimmy Stadt really does not look like his voice. For a split second I thought he was just one of those annoying young scene kid photographers you get at most shows these days. My bad. However, his unique vocal sound held up very well live. Hitting the stage at 7:30, the room was unfortunately about half-empty from what it would be later, and well over half of the people there had obviously no idea who they were. But did Polar Bear Club care? No. All smilies and maximum effort was what they gave the crowd and it was obvious that they were simply five guys having a great time, playing their music. "Hollow Place" and closer "The Bug Parade" were the standout tracks, from a very exciting and exceptionally tight outfit, who I'm sure will be playing to much larger, more receptive audiences in the UK when they come over next time.
All in all? Three bands. Three fantastic performances. One very happy fan.