Brian Fallon knows his people.
Standing center stage at the PNC Bank Arts Center on Saturday night — his band’s biggest local gig since they performed at the amphitheater eight years ago — the singer was quick to anoint New Jersey as “the best place in the world… the greatest state in the whole nation. ”
The scruffy Red Bank frontman explained how the president should be moved to the Garden State, then recounted his very first PNC show – Depeche Mode in 1994, only because a Motley Crue tour was canceled – and prompted the crowd to consider whether their beloved breakfast meat was indeed Taylor ham or pork roll.
The response to the latter wasn’t exactly encouraging as it was a cacophony of loaded statements, like an 18th century town hall about who remained loyal to King George III.
Fallon smiled broadly at the fervent cries of the pig disc – again, he knows his people.
And New Jersey rock fans know Gaslight Anthem, the band born in New Brunswick basements and the sweltering Court Tavern, who rose to fame in 2008 with the nostalgia-laden LP “The ’59 Sound” and are remained the most popular local alternative in the state. rock band pretty much ever since.
With that, around 10,000 bundled-up fans braved the October cold on Saturday (sharp 47 degrees when the band took the stage) for Holmdel Hall’s final show of the 2022 season, and Gaslight’s first show in the New Jersey in four years, since his trio of reunion shows at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in 2018.
After a few nebulous hiatuses since 2015, the band announced in March that they were back full-time and had begun writing their sixth studio album. While no new songs have arrived yet, fans were thrilled to browse the band’s well-traveled catalog on Saturday, targeting favorites ‘Great Expectations’, ’45’ and 2007 alum ‘We Came to Dance’. , where Fallon made a point to underline the lyrics to “Central Jersey skies”.
For this new US tour, which began last month in Portland, Gaslight features six musicians: Fallon and main members Alex Rosamilia (lead guitar), Alex Levine (bass) and Benny Horowitz (drums), as well as lead guitarist tour and (longtime Fallon collaborator) Ian Perkins and keyboardist Bryan Haring, the latest edition. Haring’s additional vocal harmonies and piano plinks were welcome additions to round out the band’s crisp sound, which is frankly better suited to clubs and theaters than cavernous outdoor spaces like this.
At this point, the mix at PNC was poor, as is often the case; Levine’s bass was muddy, the rest was too indefinite, not exactly a true representation of the records.
However, the band remained tense and vibrant, with Fallon’s required gravel tearing up “Mulholland Drive” and the jagged “Howl”. The 2014 track “Stay Vicious” slammed hard with its extremely heavy blues. The singer’s softer touch, on the opener “Have Mercy” and the pensive “Halloween”, was poignant and certainly improved upon since the band’s early days – integral to Fallon’s usually more subdued (and largely excellent) trio of solo records. released since 2016.
Joyful bordering on eccentric, Fallon, 42, ran the show with childlike enthusiasm and ease, quick with a joke – “I hope you like metal, this one’s called ‘Raining Blood’ “from Slayer,” he joked before the very-not-metal “Mae” — and encouraging fans that it’s never too late to do what they want with their lives.
“If we six idiots can play here, you can do anything…we used to work at a grocery store where a guy was selling drugs in the back, I showed up for work scared to die,” Fallon laughed.
The 95-minute set was about what fans should expect, anchored mostly by outtakes from 2012’s “’59 Sound” and audience-pleasing “Handwritten.” For the home team, an extra jam or two off of 2007’s debut album “Sink or Swim,” which was forged on and around the Rutgers campus, would have been a nice homecoming touch.
But overall, it’s been an exciting comeback for the band and their devout cast of flannel-and-jean supporters, who all seem ready for the next chapter.
The Gaslight Anthem setlist
October 8, 2022 – PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ