Out of nowhere in January 2018, it was announced that THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM would reunite for a run of shows in celebration of The ‘59 Sound, the band’s sophomore album. As dates trickled out, there was a noticeable void of any New Jersey dates. From the early days darkness of The Court Tavern in New Brunswick, to the bright lights and brisk ocean breeze of The Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park – THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM in New Jersey is just meant to be. It was time to come home. Surely it would happen.
Right in the middle of finding their stride, the band came back home for three back-to-back-to-back sold-out shows at The Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, NJ. It was only a matter of when, not if. This was the cap of a whirlwind tour which saw stops from D.C., Chicago, NYC, and a handful of shows in Canada & Europe. This was the band’s first return to NJ since the Skate and Surf Festival in 2015. With the palpable energy in the air, it was definitely the perfect time.
THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM hit the ground running with “Handwritten” from their 2011 release of the same name. Not wasting any time and turning things up a bit, the band then ripped through “Drive” which produced the night’s first crowd-surfer, surely not to be the last. Closing out the opening mini-set was “The Spirit of Jazz” and “Queen of Lower Chelsea”.
At this point, despite still being so early, everyone was ready for the main event: The ‘59 Sound in its entirety. As the band went hit by hit from “Great Expectations” to “The Backseat”, one could easily feel the electricity running through their veins. The passion in which these songs are played is intense. Whether it was the 5th or 100th time you’ve heard these songs – tonight it felt like the first time all over again.
This is what THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM is about. It’s not just bobbing your head along and singing in unison with Brian or the sensation of Alex’s guitar riffs vibrating through your ears. It’s all of that added with Benny’s hard hitting beats behind the kit and Alex’s deep bass rhythms pulsating throughout the crowd into the dark Asbury Park night. If Brian stopped singing at any point throughout the set, the crowd could easily have taken over. Save for a few momentary breaks, the New Jersey rockers went cover to cover and injected that much needed shot of The ‘59 Sound nostalgia through everyone in the crowd which will resonate.
With little chatter, no breaks, set changes, wardrobe changes in sight – the band rolled into the last part of the night with a mix of hits spanning their storied discography. “Boomboxes and Dictionaries”, “The Diamond Church Street Choir”, and soft rocker “Underneath the Ground” provided a pallet cleanse from The ‘59 Sound. While still reeling from the melodious rocker off Get Hurt, the band jolted everyone with fan-favorites “45” and “Howl”, the latter serving as the New Jersey Devil’s official goal song. “Wooderson” from the band’s first EP was followed up with “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts”.
The evening came to an end with the ever talented Jared Hart sharing lead vocals with Brian for “We’re Getting a Divorce, You Keep the Diner”, followed by Dave Hause sharing vocals on a chaotic and somber rendition of “American Slang”. After waving goodbye to the sold-out Asbury Park crowd, the band slowly exited the stage, as if to hang on a little bit longer before closing out Night 1 of the mini Stone Pony Summer Stage residency.
Not knowing what lies ahead for THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM, one can only hope that there are future plans. With the band sounding phenomenal and firing on all cylinders, it would be a shame to never see them perform live again. But if they have found peace and finality with this extraordinary run of shows celebrating the 10th Anniversary of The ‘59 Sound, and that’s it – then all we can do is smile and be happy we had the chance to be there in the first place. Thank you THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: CMZ PHOTOGRAPHY