When I booked the tickets for this show I couldn't have been more excited. Our favourite band, off the back of their most accomplished release to date. Of course, it would have been more practical to see them in London, but why not make a weekend of it? Two tickets, a road trip, a night in a secluded country pub, Gaslight for entertainment. The stars align.
In the week leading up to the show, my situation changed immeasurably. Gaslight ceased to be our favourite band and became my favourite band. This is what they were eight years ago at the start of a journey. Well, it became obvious that they were that again. My favourite band.
Life has a funny way of imitating art and I too would stare down the same demons that lead singer Brian Fallon had to. Thirty-four years old and facing divorce, betrayal and heartbreak, it appeared I would be on a similar voyage. So the options were clear. Travel to Wales in the bleak midwinter: no car, alone, at great cost and see my favourite band. Or take the advice that was thrown at me that week and "don't go, whats the point? It would be cheaper and easier if you didn't." So I packed up an overnight bag and off I went.
I must say there is something quite liberating about doing things solo. Human beings are creatures of habit and our programming suggests we should be together, with others. After all, you are classed as a 'loser' if you do things on your own. I have a good friend who has spent most of his life in London, single and he urged me to face the demons, enjoy the struggle and go to the show. I did and it was not easy but boy, was it worth it.
Firstly, the venue. On a night that would be nourishment for the soul, it was sadly a little...soulless? The sound was extremely impressive and the band felt closer than your average arena yet like all mid-range venues, character was lacking. This is a band I have seen own Brixton Academy with their punk guitars creating sonic soundscapes that will live with me forever. So this would be different.
As the band came on I was halfcut and emotional. Defiantly, I was here though. No-one could take that from me but I was nervous of the songs, wondering what abyss Fallon's poignant pen would drive me into.
The band opened with the fitting 'Have Mercy' which then roared into a blistering '59 Sound.' Lights flashed, guitar's crunched and the world briefly looked the way I remembered it.
One of the abiding memories I have of the show is Brian's perma-grin; he really enjoyed his job. But how could he? How do these words match the smiling, hopeful man standing in front of his crowd, delivering through the heartache? How many times had he belted out this song, was he not tired of these very chords?
He was clearly not and maintained a tight ship throughout the show, directing his band through a number of tracks from 'Get Hurt' before the iconic '45' sent the crowd into rapture.
Fallon interacted regularly, most notably starting a campaign (unsuccessfully) to get Noel Fielding to the venue. This was a man revived, recharged and clearly ready to live again. Hope, I spy.
If you love the Gaslight Anthem, you love the Gaslight Anthem, its that simple. The words tug on your heartstrings and the soulful Americana takes you to a fairytale dreamland, where Maria serves the drinks and Johnny drives you home in his Papa's pickup truck. The evening was like a dream, a moment in time. Spellbinding, powerful, ebullient.
The band played 28 songs. That's right, 28. B-Sides like 'Halloween' made the set and also old classics '1930' and 'We Came to Dance,' all greeted with the same degree of exuberance and delight from an adoring crowd.
I was indeed mesmerised and amazed at how tight the band are, the quality of the songs and the passion of the frontman. I did not want the show to end but after the best part of two hours, the final chords of 'The Backseat' played out and I knew the cold, Cardiff night awaited me. I was not sure what else did out there and as I made my way through the plethora of chip boxes and WKD bottles strewn throughout the centre, I knew I would be ok. Yes, I was a few hundred quid down, thanks to a remarkable amount of travelling, I was anxious to be in a city so full of people yet be completely on my own, however hope springs eternal. I knew I would always have the music and I will always have the songs, no matter what life throws at me.
Getting back on my feet was a journey but I believe this night was perennial in sparking hope and starting the momentum. I know now, 'I'd been shaking in the hands of someone who had finally had enough,' but I also knew there 'was someone out there feeling just like I feel.'
Thanks Brian, Thanks Gaslight.