April 29 at The Ogden Theatre, and the results were moderately impressive, but neither artist exactly blew the crowd away.
BY TIM HINELY
I thought the name of Canadian (Nova Scotia, actually) Matt Mays sounded familiar then realized that he’s the same Matt Mays who was in the alt. country band The Guthries who released the terrific Off Windmill on the long-defunct Brobdingnagian label over a decade ago. He’s now solo but has a full band and the sound these days is more akin to either Bruce Springsteen (minus the sax player) the Crazy Horse (on the meatier tunes). I bring The Boss up because Mays lead guitarist looked like he wanted to be Springsteen so badly he could taste it , right down to the red bandana, torn jeans, black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and an overly-earnest, grimacing style (I had to laugh). To be fair the guy was a damn good guitarist and the band was tight (and Mays can write songs, too…check out his latest record, Coyote). Well-worth showing up early for.
New Jersey’s Gaslight Anthem were just here back in September when they played the Fillmore (headlining over Hot Water Music) so it was nice to see them back in town so soon at the smaller venue. As I mentioned last time they are now a 5-piece with the newish second guitarist. The band came out opened with the catchy “Howl” off their latest full-length Handwritten. Leader/vocalist/guitarist Brian Fallon was singing sans guitar for the first 3 or 4 songs, which was a nice change. Speaking of songs they played a generous selection off their last three records, including 2008’s The ’59 Sound and 2010’s American Slang including the title track to all three of those recent records plus “Great Expectations,” “Old White Lincoln” “The Patient Ferris Wheel,” “The Queen of Lower Chelsea” as well as a few of the grittier ones off Handwritten like “Too Much Blood” and “Keepsake.” It took a few minutes of cheering but the band emerged back out for a few encores including the acoustic “National Anthem” and “Mulholland Drive” as well as a few others (including fan favorite “1930” off their 2007 debut, Sink or Swim).
The band plays with passion and heart, but it seems like they might be going through the motions, if just a bit. I’m looking (hoping) for a surprise next time (more acoustic songs? a choir? a horn section?). I think they have it in them to pull it off.