The Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner, Polar Bear Club
02 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, Sunday February 8
On a rainy night like this, west London feels like how you imagine non-descript towns in New Jersey to be, as glistening streets are pounded by the chequered shirt-wearing faithful. And for two of tonight’s bands there’s the smell of victory on the breeze which can’t even be extinguished by Polar Bear Club failing to translate their small-club appeal on to the cavernous stage – their chug-a-lug punk rock might have sounded good the previous night in Kingston’s Fighting Cocks, but here it echoes fruitlessly around the Empire’s rafters.Conversely, put Frank Turner onstage in a suddenly rammed venue and instantly, the volume goes up: ‘Love, Ire & Song’ and ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’, thanks to the accompaniment of a few hundred throats, sound heart-swellingly full. “I’ll be back here in October,” he says proudly; every time he plays in London Turner sells out a bigger venue and our money’s on him finally taking on the mainstream – deservedly so.
As partisan as The Gaslight Anthem’s crowd is (confirmed by the rousing cheer that greets the opening notes of ‘Great Expectations’)
you can’t help but think they’ve taken their collective foot off the, er, petroleum. Whereas back in August at ULU the ‘Sink Or Swim’ material went down best, now it’s a minority who get excited – albeit gushingly so – about ‘I’da Called You Woody, Joe’ (complete with
the same intro snatch of ‘Stand By Me’ from six months ago) while ‘Old White Lincoln’ and ‘The Backseat’ are welcomed like old friends despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of any new material. It’s impossible to deny the twinkling gorgeousness of ‘Miles Davis & The Cool’ and ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid’, and if you’re in the mood for a beer-sodden night with three of your best mates, Gaslight are the greatest band on the planet. But the sound that’s ringing in our ears as we step out into the drizzle is that of laurels being firmly rested on.