The audacity! The sheer Goddarned Cojones of attempting to cover this song. It is a constant amazement to me that bands even try it. I mean it’s not like it’s a four to the floor and a good riff and you’ve got it nailed. There’s so much more to Who’s Next’s barnstorming opener.
The original Baba O’ Riley is the Sistine Chapel of rock songs. It’s a monument to the glory of the art form. If you’re going to try and play about with it there are so many elements to tackle. First of all there’s the diddle-iddle-iddle of the intro. Instantly recognisable to all the faithful. It’s like serving a notice to any room, any size, any where that things are about to go up a gear. Then there’s the chord drops. You’re not allowed to try them without wind-milling your arm. I mean were still on the intro and we’ve crossed over into pastiche.
This is not an ordinary rock song. This is an anthem. In the truest sense.
So what does Brian Fallon’s band of Bartender Bohemian’s do with such a monumental song? They play it like fans. They bosh out a raw rough back room version you’d pay five dollars on the door to see and they throw their two guitars, bass and drums into it like they get paid in beer and the wages go up if the crowd cheer louder.
They do the two minute keyboard intro on the guitar in 15 seconds and crash into the riff with the bass and drums. This is a live studio session slapped down and pushed out in a day. In this marvellous selection of songs they also do Tom Petty’s Refugee, Pearl Jam’s State Of Love And Trust and The Animals House Of The Rising Sun. You must check out The Gaslight Anthem’s iTunes Session.
So all the fancy trimmings are dispensed with and Brian hollers his best Roger Daltrey impression on all the big notes
“Teenage Waste! Land! It’s Only Teeeeenage! Waste! Land!”
They really blow your hair back at the end though. They don’t pull their punches on that big solo with the folky breaks that turns the drums into a masterclass and the bassline into a 3D chess game of smoke and lightning.
No they keep the rockiest part of the song that most people would shy away from front and centre. Considering this was released shortly before some boyband moppets stole the intro for a milksop limp around the chart radio stations, I’d say The Gaslight Anthem this day performed a public service broadcast.