Stage Times: The Gaslight Anthem
Brian Fallon talks surprise shows, proposals and how it feels to be back on the road as a band
The Gaslight Anthem are back, and despite the immense hype surrounding the reunion, it’s possible that no one is more excited than lead singer Brian Fallon. Fresh off the very first show on the European tour, the response has been even more overwhelming than he anticipated.
“We did a surprise show at my friend’s bar before,” he says. “It’s a venue, but it’s like, 200 people, and no one knew we were playing… So we surprised everybody there. And that was like, insane. It just went insane. People were so happy.”
If Fallon was blown away by the energy of 200 people, the crowd at Berlin’s Columbiahalle was on another level. “I felt like, holy moly. Like, I’m in Pearl Jam today.”
This is the band’s first headline tour in four years, a jam-packed two months of shows across Europe and North America in front of fans who still can’t believe their luck that the indefinite hiatus is over, indefinitely. The schedule may look grueling to some, but Fallon jokes that he considers the job almost cushy.
“I mean, it’s not the same touring that we used to do when we were younger,” he says. “That was really hard – sleeping on floors and not knowing like, is there going to be a shower today? I’m not trying to say it’s easy, but like, I used to put roofs on houses. This is not that. This is way better.”
When asked if it all feels like stepping back in where The Gaslight Anthem last picked off, Fallon considers.
“You know, it’s strange, but it doesn’t feel like being back somewhere,” he muses. “It totally feels like a familiar thing, but a new thing. I guess it feels like if there was a series of books, and then it’s done, and then we’re doing the new series, like now we’re going into a new thing. It feels like a second life. I imagine it’s what it must feel like to have a past life or something like that, where you’re like, this feels familiar, but also totally new.”
With the band approaching Irish dates this month, Fallon talks us through some of The Gaslight Anthem’s definitive live moments.
The first gig was at a game store. You know, like Dungeons and Dragons type stuff. Our friend owned a store, and we played in the back room, where they would do all the games, total comic book stuff. You know, we’re not cool at the end of the day. We all like nerdy stuff. So we played in the back of the shop and it was for like 20 people. It was in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was awesome.
Best gig could be a couple fold, I think, because there’s so many gigs that I remember being like, that’s a big deal. The one that’s coming to my mind right now… My wife is from Tottenham. So we played Ally Pally, and we were just dating at the time. I had snuck all around Europe and bought her a ring. I kept it in my pocket, the whole tour. And then she met us in London. Her dad used to go to Ally Pally and see shows and I took her out to the front lawn. I was like, what is that over there? Do you remember what town you lived in? Can you point out the area? She turned around and then when she turned back around I had the ring. So I got engaged at the Ally Pally show in London. That’s always going to be hugely important for me. I remember like at the beginning of the show, I lit a candle for her Nan… that was like really emotional, cool show.
My sister-in-law does sports TV. So she was interviewing some football players at Ally Pally, years later. And she went in the back and there’s a photo of me from that show on the wall. I was like, “Come on now!”
The one that stands out the most to me obviously is playing with Bruce Springsteen at Hyde Park. You just don’t get past that. There’s so many people and you’re up there with freaking Bruce Springsteen! You’re like, what is happening today? I was just eating pizza 40 minutes ago. That’s always going to be number one. That’s hard to top. I don’t think anybody’s gonna top that.
We played a couple shows with like, the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam… but nothing was as big as the Bruce show. That was massive. I was so about to lose it. And right before I was gonna go on, I was like, “Your mom is gonna see this. You cannot let her down. You’ve got to do this for your mom.” I would not be into music and know about music if it wasn’t for my mom sharing music with me at such a young age. I was like, “I’m doing this for her.” And I did it.
What was insane is that later on, he was filming the show, and he released a DVD called Live In Hyde Park and he kept my thing in there! It’s in the DVD. You could go on iTunes and buy it.
We played this gig one time somewhere in Germany, I think. This is probably 20 years ago. There were these skinheads that showed up. Not cool skinheads. Like the bad kind. I remember them throwing beer and throwing bottles and being really not cool. The vibe was like, we’re fighting. There was only four of them, but it was gnarly. We were definitely ducking bottles. We had to stop the set and be like, well, I guess we’re fighting, and it kind of got weird after that.
That was early, early days. We ran into trouble like that in the punk scene every once in a while, but that’s probably the worst show. I remember being like, “Am I gonna go to hospital after the show?” But they got kicked out. I think some dudes stepped in and helped us out.
We’ve played shows with like three people there. We did that for a long time. I’d say for the first year or so we would play shows with like five people there, ten people there and you know, you would just kind of do it. We played youth centres in Germany, a lot of punk houses… and they were very, like, not a venue at all.
You know, that’s probably going to be a festival we played on Guernsey Island one time with Primal Scream. And it was pretty weird. We took a boat there, and during the day we’re just kind of chilling in tents. It’s such a small town and we’re cruising through the town and there’s lots of hills and we’re following these guys on motorcycles… It ended up being cool though, because we got to play with Primal Scream. It wasn’t bad. It was just strange.
The Gaslight Anthem play Dublin’s National Stadium on 23 August and Belfast’s Telegraph Building on 24 August 2022. Limited tickets on sale now.