Look, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer didn’t invent this stuff, either. The greased hair and the leathers and the overdriven takes of Mad Men-era rock standards already had a blanket of dust on them a generation thick by the time The Boss and The Clash got around to them.
Jersey pomade-punks The Gaslight Anthem are the most persuasive current exponents of this tradition, and they don’t hide it. Hell, they called their latest album The ’59 Sound. At a sold-out 9:30 Club last night, they ripped through that nostalgic long-player in its near-entirety, frontman Brian Fallon balling up his handsome face to yowl about Redemption and car crashes and good girls in trouble with archaic-sounding names like Gale and — of course! — Mary. Otis Redding and even Tom Petty were duly quoted or namechecked, and bits of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” and The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” fit like an ancient pair of Levis interpolated into the Gas-lit originals.
It’s fair to ask how many bands can return to the well, or The River, how many times. Fallon and Co. are true believers, and for 85 minutes, they made us believe, too. The skyscraping opener “High Lonesome” confronted the issue of pastichery head-on, declaring “I always kinds sorta wish I’m someone else.” But their musicianship was sharp and aggressive, drummer Benny Horowitz’s sure-footed rhythms forever threatening to morph into “Be My Baby.”
There’s plenty of time for them to find an original idea. Right now, they’ve got a fistful of singalong psalms and fervor you can’t fake. It’s Fallon’s party, and he’ll channel The Ronnettes if he wants to.