Gaslight Anthem / Heartless Bastards / Good Old War - live in Chicago (Cover Artwork)

Gaslight Anthem / Heartless Bastards / Good Old War

live in Chicago (2009)

live show

I was pleased beyond pleased when I saw a notice that a handful of extra tickets were released for this show. You better believe that I was willing to be late to work that night in order to get them too. As much as I love the Gaslight Anthem, I do hate the Bottom Lounge. The show would have been so much better had it been at Reggie's, but you could say that about a lot of shows.

On the bill tonight were Good Old War, Heartless Bastards, and, of course, the Gaslight Anthem. It still amazes me how much Gaslight Anthem has grown in popularity since their debut in 2007. They've played two late night TV shows, toured with Rise Against last year and playing with Bruce Springsteen coming up, and now grace the cover of AP magazine. It's safe to say that all of their success is deserved. They are fantastically original and give the music scene the shot of life that it so sorely needs right now. It is kind of a shame to think that after this tour, they probably won't be playing any smaller venues, so I was ecstatic to catch them there, despite the shittiness of the Bottom Lounge.

Up first was Good Old War. I had heard nothing about this band, but I was assured that they were top-notch. I had no idea how good of a band they were until they played. A three-piece band relying on acoustic guitar, drum, and keyboard. However, their strongest point as a band was their harmonies. The three of them managed to create such a beautiful and moving sound with their voices. I was in awe the entire set. Not only were their songs catchy, but they were just plain good with well-written lyrics and quality instrumentation. Their transition from song to song was seamless. The lead guitar player had an electric guitar set up so that when the time came, he could just jump on that and play his solo. They are playing a show coming up at Reggie's and I am super psyched to catch them again. They were easily the biggest and best surprise of the night.

The next band was Heartless Bastards, a female-fronted group which made me skeptical at first. She came out with a giant-ass keyboard and guitar, neither of which were put to the greatest of use. She had a really strong voice and knew how to use it, but unfortunately, the songs just didn't seem to go anywhere. They were long and repetitive and by the end, I was really just hoping they would end. Looking around the crowd, it didn't seem like there were more than two people getting into this band. Granted, the one dude who was, was really getting into it. The highlights of their set came when they brought out the pedal steel guitar and added some freshness to their set. The other was when someone in the crowd yelled out, "Don't you hate pants?" in reference to "The Simpsons." It made me laugh. Really, all you could say about them was that they were good, but just not interesting.

Closing the night was the band that everyone came to see: the Gaslight Anthem. They managed to sell out the place and it was packed. The only other time I'd seen them play was at the Congress opening for Rise Against. I really enjoyed their set that night and thought that they played better than both Thrice and Alkaline Trio. They opened this set with "Great Expectations" and a couple other songs off The '59 Sound before playing one of my favorites, "We Came to Dance." One of the cool elements about where I was standing up front was being able to hear the crowd singing back at the stage. Normally, I'm not a fan of that, but for some reason, it added to the atmosphere of the show.

They ran back and forth between their full-lengths, playing all of their most recognized songs. I'm not terribly familiar with the names, but I knew most everything they played. The only time I was left wondering was when they pulled from Señor and the Queen. For some reason, I've never been able to get a hold of that EP. I was worried they weren't going to play it, but they finally played "I'da Called You Woody, Joe." They disguised it by starting it as "Stand by Me," but then broke into the song and my heart was lifted. Maybe it was just me, but their energy just didn't seem to be what it was the last time I saw them. It may have had something to do with the fact that Brian didn't have his hat on. They were moving and dancing and feeding off the energy of the crowd, but something minor just seemed lacking from them. That's not to say that it affected my enjoyment of the show much, but it was something I noticed. I had a sneaking suspicion that Brian may have been giving the same spiel about moving to the city or supporting their football team to other tour stops, but part of me hopes that he wouldn't pull a douche bag rock star move like that.

Overall, it was a great night. I discovered an awesome new band that I can't wait to hear more from, saw one of my favorite new bands, and, best of all, I didn't have to go to work.