By Daniel Humphry
The crowd is thick with check shirts and full beards, early thirties guts and loose denim. It is an unmistakeable Gaslight audience and now three pints deep they are ready to sway along to Americana, or soft folk rock, or whichever new term we’re attaching this time around.
But up first are Japandroids, a distinctly non-soft rock outfit. The duo from Victoria, Canada, takes stage and must be concerned how their chanting punk-rock will settle with such an audience. Any fears were well misplaced, however, as stripped down, rawer versions of regular fan favourites ‘The House That Heaven Built’ and ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ grab the attention and refuse to yield.
Japandroids have to be one of the most reflective bands playing live today. Few others are approaching generational problems and the unfairness of recession hitting youths hardest, but with lyrics such as ‘Adrenaline Nightshift’ - “Wounded and thin…still waiting for a generation’s bonfire to begin,” Japandroids are taking the lead.
That raucous honesty extends throughout the set, as problems with the drum kit lead to crashing guitar solos and the drummers trademark ‘wooooah woooah’ chants. By the final song Japandroids seem to have swayed all but the most check-shirted of punter and receive a rousing send off.
In what seemed a strange choice, Gaslight Anthem arrive to Van Halen’s ‘Jump’. It seems odd given the juxtaposition of Jump’s light-heartedness against the ‘down-to-work’ faces on the band – who dive straight in to business and play through a number of hits before coming up for air.
Pints sway above heads and favoured choruses are chanted back, but despite the approving crowd I can’t shake the feeling that Gaslight are incredible safe; bordering on dull. Regardless of how clichéd the reference may be, Gaslight do play like Bruce Springsteen minus the knowing wink. Lyrics pour forth like a GCSE poetry reading – “Have you seen my heart, have you seen how it bleeds? And the nights are so long, baby, out here in the deep,” in such a way that I can’t help feel an English band, without the Americana safety net, wouldn’t be applauded for.
Still, Gaslight play out their set and the crowd eat-up every second of it. There are just some bands that baffle in their popularity and, for me, this is one of them.