The Gaslight Anthem + Frank Turner + Polar Bear Club @ Birmingham Academy 2 – 3rd February 2009


Polar Bear Club are on first, a fun hardcore-ish band in the 90’s sense of the word whose songs largely run into one another. In defence, it’s terribly early: 7pm starts are no one’s friend. There is some weakness in the vocals but the guitars are strong and clever and there’s a lot of energy thrown about on what is an otherwise spectacularly crappy day in the Midlands. They play a new track, Take Me To The Town, which intros like an eighties musical montage colliding with 90s rock. In the good way.


Next up, Frank Turner is greeted warmly; it seems a large part of tonight’s crowd is here for him. He brings the noise levels down with some folk-rock and vehement but not embarrassing sincerity in the lyrics. Tracks like Love, Ire & Song and Worse Things Happen At Sea are received enthusiastically by the crowd. Long Live The Queen is one of the faster in tonight’s set, with somewhat raw vocals on the higher notes but it works as Frank Turner has a sound that is Americana at the edges but seemingly not an imitation, more an accident of genre, although the lyrics can be hit or miss.

He ends with Ballad of Me and My Friends, with much shouting along. On the way out of the venue someone will ask his friend “Why haven’t I heard of Frank Turner? Everyone else has!” with a wide, sweeping gesture. Don’t be that man. Listen harder.


Gaslight Anthem enter the stage to the flash of the presspit and launch into Great Expectations, crashing into The Patient Ferris Wheel without a beat. The’ve been touring The ’59 Sound for a while now but the songs aren’t called in as they go into the next three tracks without pause, only beginning to tumble at the edges on Film Noir, which has an intro I love. Here they pause for breath and we find out they’ve been sat on a plane for eight hours today in Glasgow.

Title track, The ’59 Sound, is anthemic and polished but still makes me think of smoky clubs and listening to bands you knew when you were 17 and would live forever. The whole album has this strange combination of timelessness and immediacy that led Kerrang! To declare Gaslight Anthem as ‘the best new band you’ll hear in 2008’ back in August: we’re catching on. The few tracks they play from earlier album Sink or Swim seem to be a foreign language to some of tonight’s crowd, but at Miles Davis & The Cool I’m told by fa fan “they’ll be playing downstairs next time”.


Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts impacts with the dynamic of guitars, even in the Academy with their oftentimes dubious PA, and there are crowdsurfers for High Lonesome and The Navesink Banks. Wrapping up with an awesome display of vocals on Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and closing the set on The Backseat. There’s a lot of blinking and breath-catching by the crowd as the band exit the stage.

And return for an encore, in which they cover Pearl Jam’s State of Love and Trust and it is magnificent and I would never be forgiven for not mentioning this. By the time Say I Won’t (Recognize), there is no one left ambivalent about the Gaslight Anthem. So I’ll be seeing you downstairs next time, yeah?



Great Expectations
The Patient Ferris Wheel
We Came To Dance
Film Noir

The ’59 Sound
Miles Davis & The Cool
I’da Called You Woody, Joe
Old White Lincoln
Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts

High Lonesome
The Navesink Banks
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
The Backseat

Boomboxes and Dictionaries
State of Love and Trust [Pearl Jam cover]
Say I Won’t (Recognize)

Review – Jack Briggs
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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