SAYREVILLE, NJ—“We’re not done forever. We’re done for now,” said Tomas Kalnoky to a sold-out crowd during the middle show of a three-day run at Starland Ballroom. Usually, a statement about being “done”—even for a little while—wouldn’t garner a roar of cheers like it did at that moment. But in this case it was an audible expression of relief: Streetlight Manifesto had fueled speculation of a breakup by billing the Starland shows as “the end of 10 years of non-stop touring” and announcing that they’d be playing songs from all of their records.
Further assuaging the local majority of fans (despite many out-of-staters in attendance, including a person who flew in from Australia), Kalnoky reminded the audience that although the band would no longer be touring, most of its members live in New Jersey and would likely play future shows exclusive to the area. It’s good news for the state that anchored Kalnoky’s beloved punk band Catch 22 and watched seven-member Streetlight Manifesto evolve into one of Jersey’s most cherished live acts. The Australian guy? Not as lucky, but at least the band dedicated that night’s version of their beloved “Point/Counterpoint/Keasbey Nights” mashup to him.
Initiating a multi-day celebratory affair tinged with sentimentality, Streetlight built their Thursday show upon fan requests. They’d posted a poll a week prior seeking everyone’s top three song choices. The result was a testament to the band’s devotedly knowledgeable fanbase: a setlist not dominated by “hits” but a mix of career-spanning material, including covers from 99 Songs Of The Revolution and Kalnoky’s 2001 side-project Bandits Of The Acoustic Revolution. A few Catch 22 songs—including the rare instrumental “Riding The Fourth Wave”—drew as much excitement as grander Streetlight anthems like “We Will Fall Together” and “A Better Place, A Better Time.”
After Thursday’s party mix, Streetlight devoted Friday and Saturday nights to playing the entirety of their three original albums: Everything Goes Numb (2002), Somewhere In The Between (2007), and The Hands That Thieve (2013). Friday’s set focused on Streetlight’s early Numb years with a few songs off SITB added in.
Within seconds of the “Everything Goes Numb” opener, crowd surfers cascaded over the railing in droves and continued to do so relentlessly for the entire 100-minute set. Younger fans caught in a perpetually moving crush in front of the stage occasionally emerged covered in sweat and missing shoes that got lost in the shuffle. Older fans watched from the elevated sidelines of the newly renovated venue, preferring dancing space to the mosh pits. The uniting factor was a chorus: nearly everybody loudly sang the words to every song. In a gesture that confirmed the weekend’s sense of finality, Kalnoky invited former band members on stage to play a rendition of “If And When We Rise Again” that featured several well-deserved horn solos.
Saturday’s set was the pinnacle of Streetlight Manifesto’s Herculean ability to transform a room into a resounding bastion of impassioned energy. Perhaps it was due to the excitement of playing new material—The Hands That Thieve has only been out since April—or maybe it was the drama of a long but ceaselessly fiery journey about to end. Whatever the reason, Streetlight seemed determined to make their “last” show a triumphant height of greatness. Kalnoky said little to the audience as he and his bandmates blasted through 18 songs, often smiling gleefully at each other. Midway through the set, the band played three acoustic songs—“Toe To Toe,” “The Hands That Thieve” and “If Only For Memories”—that emphasized the lyrics’ remarkably poetic quality—a trait that occasionally gets lost inside Streetlight’s glorious noise.
The crowd was just as invested in enthusiastically embracing every moment of the final show. A noticeable lack of phones in hands made for a rare scene; an unspoken desire to be as present as possible became the norm. Such is the transformative power of Streetlight Manifesto. Chants of “Thank you Streetlight!” arose as the band exited pre-encore. The final song of the night, “Somewhere In The Between,” left the audience with a parting reminder to live in the moment. “Someday soon, my friends/This ride will come to an end/But we can’t just get in line again,” sang Kalnoky before the band bowed one last time—for now.