Days into my Freshman year at a now defunct arts school thousands of miles away from home, I got dumped. Hard. Not only dumped, but replaced. Which, for an overly dramatic, heartbroken, homesick college co-ed, was just the worst thing ever. I wandered the mean streets of Chester, New Hampshire desperately searching for a place that felt like home to sit and lick my wounds. On one particularly cliche and dramatic night, I found myself wandering the graveyard alone. Laid flat on my back atop a quintessentially New England stone wall, I stared up at the stars as “Even Cowgirl’s Get The Blues” came wailing over my headphones. And in that moment, with the stars, the rock wall, and the heartbreak, The Gaslight Anthem brought me home.
Ten years later the heartbroken teenager was gone, but the homesickness was still very real. There in that Jersey Shore town, one brisk summer evening, The Gaslight Anthem brought me back home.
The thing about the Gaslight Anthem is that they truly are timeless. I’ll admit that as I drove to the venue I was a little weary. While this isn’t an official comeback tour, it was a homecoming of sorts. It’s not unusual to hear stories of bands phoning in anniversary tours just to get them done. I should have known better. The Gaslight Anthem played a show on 8/19 that was truly the perfect “thank you” note to the very fans who got them where they are.
The opening acts were chosen with care. Jared Hart, essentially an honorary Gaslight member and a Titan in his own right, kicked off the night backed by an incredible (and local!) string quartet. Moody, and made more powerful by the unseasonal chill in the seaside air, his gruff vocals and the deep soothing strings made the evening seem surreal. Never afraid to follow a tough act, the immensely talented pillar of punk rock, Chuck Ragan stepped up to bat next. Raucous but intelligent, homespun but universal, Chuck Ragan has rightly been an inspiration to Gaslight and their fans for years. His heartfelt, high energy set was the perfect precursor for the big event.
With the sun sinking low over the ocean, and a distinctly autumnal chill in the air, New Jersey’s finest returned home. Every song was emotionally charged, every note was played with feeling. Years have gone by and these guys haven’t lost an ounce of magic. They’re still pouring their hearts out and it sounds fantastic. Obviously, with any anniversary tour the setlist is stacked. These are the songs that broke our hearts. The songs that put us back together. The words that are branded into our skin. Clearly, they still mean just as much to the band, because they were incredible, and they put their all into it.
There’s something to be said for an artist who isn’t offering you anything new. No surprises, nothing exciting, they aren’t playing flashy new singles, they’re playing songs you’ve heard a thousand times. The worn out spots between the grooves, the little corners of the lyrics where they hurt just right, the swirling guitar riffs that still gives you chills…their coziness feels like home.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Jersey girl. Maybe it’s because I grew up knowing everything that matters happens in a diner, on a Ferris wheel, or with the radio on. Maybe it’s just because at heart, I’m still that overdramatic teenager perched on a wall in a cemetery. Whatever it may be, I can assure you, that experience will be hard to top. May we all be able to sing with our heroes at 33 rounds per minute.
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