featuring River City Sound, Greek Fire, and Gaslight Anthem
December 6th, 2012 at Pop's in Sauget, Illinois
As usual, Pop's in Sauget was packed earlier this week as rock fans waited to watch three bands take the stage during 105.7's first Ho Ho Show for 2012. Naturally, the on-air talents came on stage between acts to talk about the concert series and the radio station - but the real stars of Tuesday night were the bands, most specifically New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem, currently on tour with their fourth album HANDWRITTEN. I could clearly see throughout the crowd folks already wearing TGA gear, and that was before people found the merch table. A half hour after the doors opened, the show began - and went on for the rest of the night into the a.m.
River City Sound: These local boys - if Alton, Illinois counts as local to Saint Louis folks - were clearly enjoying themselves on stage as they leaped around with guitar in hand, singing about five songs to make up their set. Audience reaction to them was fairly positive, although a little ambivalent, and only got pumped when they said Greek Fire would be coming up next. Lyrics were okay, a lot of them remnant of Gaslight Anthem (but without the intensity or creativity). Vocals and guitar work, however, were solid; some songs sounded better than others, but the guitar was always great.
Remember kids, if you can't get your audience to do a call-and-response without it sounding like you're pulling teeth? You probably shouldn't.
You can read the rest of this review beyond the jump.
Greek Fire: This local band is Saint Louis' best kept secret music-wise. Perhaps opening for The Gaslight Anthem will get them more popularity - because they certainly deserve it. They even have a Wikipedia page for goodness' sake; how are they not nearly as big as TGA? One thing is for certain: Greek Fire puts on a hell of a show. By the end of the first song, they practically had the audience eating out of their hands. If I hadn't blown all my cash on the merch table for Gaslight gear, I would have picked up their debut album as soon as their set end.
Their return to Pop's was an energetic and joyous one, especially as this band was celebrating drummer Johnny Venus' beating leukemia and being cancer-free. Those who were there were treated with the first live performance of "If This Is The End (The Sound Of Belief)", as well as a new single slated to drop in a few weeks. Lead man 'Moon' had the entire audience chanting along with him as he strutted across stage and even rode on club security's shoulders through the crowd to perform their best known song, "Doesn't Matter Anyway", among other antics. Moon certainly had the crowd pumped for the main event - The Gaslight Anthem.
(Also, shallow point: Moon is amazingly good looking. Like, wow.)
Gaslight Anthem: One might assume Brian Fallon and his gang could not possibly top their Pop's performance back in 2010, when their latest album was AMERICAN SLANG and they actually played songs from their SENOR AND THE QUEEN EP. You know what? One would be wrong. As soon as they opened up with "Mae"/"High Lonesome", it was clear that they were in full form and most excellent. You gotta love a band that has been going since 2005 and can still bring a crowd to their feet with arms thrown in the air, clapping and screaming and singing along.
(Fun fact: it seems that most fans of The Gaslight Anthem have the lyrics memorized. I can't remember a single song on TGA's setlist which didn't have at least part of the audience singing along - even the slower songs like "Here's Looking At You, Kid".)
The songs in TGA's setlist were heavily skewed towards their newest album as well as THE '59 SOUND, but they knew how to mix it up. Plus, you gotta love Brian Fallon for breaking into "Old White Lincoln" to do a Beatles cover - and then in "Angry Johnny and the Radio" for a pretty brilliant Bon Iver cover (and this is from someone who is not that big a fan of the Iver). Fallon must be getting more comfortable with crowds, because he seemed much more talkative than his previous appearance at Pop's. His talks with the audience between song sets were humorous and quirky without dragging the show down.
Their encore, after much begging from the audience, was six songs long. But let's be real: TGA will always do an encore. They love their fans way too bloody much not too. That's why they keep putting on a hell of a show year after year. They, along with Greek Fire and River City Sound, made the first Ho Ho Show an unforgettable night. I certainly won't forget it any time soon (although I can certainly hope that I won't have to wait another two years to see Brian Fallon's face again!).
One minor complaint: Listen, I know they are expensive and sometimes they don't make purchases worth it. Also, they can be a right hassle. But can we get someone with an iPhone and a card reader attachment to start selling Gaslight merch at these shows? I would have gladly spent more money than the cash I had on me if that had been an option! Having said that, I love my stickers, pins, tour shirt, and copy of HANDWRITTEN (deluxe edition!) - although, as I said before, I wish I had enough cash to buy some Greek Fire swag. Card readers! Please consider them!
You can find the complete setlist for Gaslight Anthem at setlist.fm; Greek Fire and River City Sound don't seem to have put their lists up.