Having a Garden State Parkway rest stop named in their honor one day a la Jon Bon Jovi and Frank Sinatra is a long shot. Even so, it’s possible that few musical acts to date have displayed their New Jersey identity and exuded appreciation for their home state quite like The Gaslight Anthem.
Since their first album, 2007's Sink or Swim, the New Brunswick-connected, punk-centered band have often talked about their Jersey roots and back story, while also making references to where they come from in their songs — perhaps most notably in “We Came to Dance” (featured on their debut) by acknowledging there is a central Jersey.
They reinforced that geographical point in a big way on Oct. 8 in Holmdel at the PNC Bank Arts Center, closing out the venue’s 2022 concert season as well as wrapping up their first tour since resuming full-time status this year. Hanging above the amphitheater stage was a large banner with the band’s name in all caps and New Jersey in script, two lightning bolts bookending the shape of New Jersey and an overlapping white VG near the part of the state where New Brunswick’s Court Tavern — the site of many early Gaslight Anthem shows — used to be.
Then there’s what happened on the stage. Frontman Brian Fallon made it clear after his band’s third song that he was glad to be home, and throughout the set, he devoted plenty of between-song banter to Jersey-related subjects and memories. With a smile, he broached the most polarizing nonpolitical issue that’s divided state residents for decades (the pork roll vs. Taylor ham debate), and he also told a funny story related to his first concert at the venue (he saw Depeche Mode instead of the John Corabi-fronted Motley Crue, whose show at the arts center was called off).
The enthusiastic crowd was with Fallon all the way, whether he was talking to them like an old friend or leading the band through choice material from the wide-ranging Gaslight Anthem catalog, with the aching “Get Hurt,” the Bruce Springsteen-esque (lyrically more than musically) “Miles Davis & the Cool,” and the rousing “45” and “The ’59 Sound” among the highlights.
With the tour over, The Gaslight Anthem will focus on recording a new studio album. And when they hit the road to support it, here’s hoping they have to travel past those Parkway rest stops to play another gig in Holmdel.