Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Gaslight Anthem / Murder by Death

live in Brooklyn (2009)

live show

Brooklyn Bowl is a new venue nestled near Bushwick and Williamsburg, and it's much more than a mere space for bands to play. Like a hipper, less corporate-meeting-oriented Dave & Busters (god, that Always Sunny sponsored episode was ridiculous), the place was incredibly spacious and polished. There was a special roped-off dining area; a full bar offering a good handful of cool brews beyond the standard Budweiser and Heineken fare; mammoth-sized, giant-screen TVs lining the dimly lit walls (convenient for Yankee fans that night); and, of course, an endless parallel of bowling lanes bathed in neon light, sitting sort of perpendicular to the fairly intimate, barricade-less stage and floor area. It seemed like a great place to see a show as long as you resisted the urge to stage-dive (strategically placed security staff ensured no one stood a chance).

With so much to do and see, it shouldn't have been shocking that so few bothered to give Broadway Calls a chance. But as the trio played through a fine-tuned set of their brash, melodic pop-punk, the speckled crowd of spectators grew noticeably in number. The band offered some of the standout fare from the recent Good Views, Bad News, as well as a couple choice cuts from 2007's self-titled. Their Jawbreaker cover ("Boxcar") tends to be a set staple and they ensured its placement here...but oddly, not that many more people in the crowd were singing along. They should've played the Smiths cover at that rate! Still, a real solid set, even if BC tends to be at their best in a packed house or basement (or warehouse space) surrounded by stoked kids in every cramped corner.

Set list (7:32-8:03):

  1. To the Sheets
  2. Basement Royalty
  3. Midnight Hour
  4. Back to Oregon
  5. Be All You Can't Be
  6. Classless Reunion
  7. Tonight's Alive
  8. Boxcar (Jawbreaker cover)
  9. Save Our Ship
  10. Call It Off
Jesse Malin has a sound and history I'm only vaguely familiar with, but his set qualified these notions and then did little to enthuse me. He's a close friend and collaborator of Ryan Adams and he and his band played that sorta Americana-nodding rock'n'roll, only with a little more of a punk splash to it. There were definitely a few fans clearly fist-pumping along, but none of the songs seemed terribly dynamic or exciting to me. Malin's stage demeanor was that of an overly snide one (perhaps reminiscent of his days in NYHC footnote Heart Attack) and his bitterness only seethed in an awkward way when he went on some seemingly nightly tirade about the touchstones of hipster culture in the band's last song.

Murder by Death then blessed the crowd with a nearly 50-minute set, so I was actually a little sore when it ended with so little played from my favorite album of theirs, 2006's In Bocca al Lupo. Even then, their rendition of "Brother" was a stuttered and oddly sharp, staccato one. But the standards off Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them? were gravelly great and, of course, thematically whiskey-soaked, per the usual, and the more melodic and memorable material from last year's Red of Tooth and Claw (set opener "Ball & Chain," "Comin' Home" and closer "Spring Break 1899") was enjoyable. Their elements were coalescing nicely and few sour notes -- if any -- could be heard.

Set list (9:33-10:20):
  1. Ball & Chain
  2. '52 Ford
  3. ?
  4. A Masters in Reverse Psychology
  5. Ash
  6. ?
  7. Brother
  8. The Devil in Mexico
  9. something off Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left of Them?
  10. Comin' Home
  11. Until Morale Improves, The Beatings Will Continue
  12. Spring Break 1899
There was a mildly enthusiastic response to MBD's set from their fans, but a half-hour later, things simply exploded. I wasn't at the sold-out, 3000-capacity Terminal 5 for Gaslight's show the night before, but I wondered how much worse it might've been when a pit broke out here at BK Bowl and 20 bros between the ages of 25 and 35 obnoxiously commanded the floor. Only a few of them were already shirtless, but perhaps all were inebriated to some serious level as they stumbled around pushing each other and anyone else who came within a two-foot radius. I even caught an errant fist, elbow or head -- who knows -- to the brunt of my nose when a vicious fight broke out between two burly guys with bicked heads and the pair bowled into my side of the floor. Drunken debauchery is one thing, but too often this felt like Madball playing Warped Tour or something.

Brian Fallon handled the heckling from these fellows well, too. One guy called him gay; another told them they sucked, or something along those lines. Fallon answered with passive, sarcastic responses, hitting on bassist Alex Levine in response to the former and exclaiming to the latter, "Hey, you like pizza?? I like pizza!! We should totally hang out!!"

Frankly, though, it was hard to feel too jilted by the frat-like front-and-center crowd because the band played so well while the proclivities of mooktivity presided. Fallon's yearning voice and the dynamically toned guitars all came through clearly and that seemed pretty key to the successful mix of stuff played from all the band's releases. The only glaring omission from the set list was "I Coulda Been a Contender," but their dramatic turn and intense delivery of "We Came to Dance" was easily one of the highlights of the whole night. The covers were also integrated expertly; "State of Love and Trust" (Pearl Jam) is starting to sound like it'd have been a perfect addition to the well-received Señor and the Queen EP. Oh, and "Trusty Chords"??? Fuck yeah! It killed the mood for the bros, but the flannel punks and hardcore kids were stoked and BB staff had to scramble to prevent pile-ons from spilling over onto the stage.

Fallon also interestingly dropped the guitar and sauntered around the stage weirdly hunched over, making for a funny frontman during "Old White Lincoln" -- but also an engaging one, riding the end of the stage where the throngs of fans were awkwardly angled over. If there were crowd-surfers, they were simply pushed back into the pool of people on the floor by venue staff.

Considering they played nearly an hour and a half with just two full-lengths and an EP to their name, can one ask much more of the Gaslight Anthem? Well...maybe a really selfish hope to stop blowing up so damn hard.

Set list (10:49-12:00):
  1. High Lonesome
  2. Casanova, Baby!
  3. Old White Lincoln
  4. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
  5. Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
  6. The '59 Sound
  7. Film Noir
  8. We Came to Dance
  9. Miles Davis and the Cool
  10. The Patient Ferris Wheel
  11. Stand by Me (Ben E. King cover, clipped) / I'da Called You Woody, Joe
  12. Angry Johnny and the Radio
  13. Great Expectations
  14. State of Love and Trust (Pearl Jam cover)
  15. Here's Looking at You, Kid
  16. 1930
  17. The Backseat
    Encore (12:00-12:14):
  18. Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts
  19. Trusty Chords (Hot Water Music cover)
  20. Meet Me by the River's Edge
  21. Say I Won't (Recognize)