Dashboard Confessional, Say Anything, and Ben Lee at the Opera House, August 13, 2006
Dashboard is dead. After a long wait at the Opera House last night, Chris Carraba emerged from behind a big white curtain without a guitar, dressed like a sleazy accountant. Everything that made Dashboard Dashboard — showing up at punk rock shows with an acoustic guitar, and (love it or hate it) a super-sensitive dude singing his broken heart out — had disappeared. Since we recently spilled some ink on the band, I’ll leave them behind and get to the good parts.
Ben Lee began the night with his quirky, self-deprecating acoustipop, tambourine-shaking his way into our hearts. About halfway through his set, he observed that seven pm wasn’t “traditionally the witching hour of rock and roll” but, “nevertheless, I’m going to rock this place like an arena.” An Aussie pop lovechild between Woody Allen and Art Garfunkel, Lee had an uphill battle. But he managed to entertain by not taking himself too seriously (e.g. he rapped in order to “introduce” himself to the Dashboard fans).
After Ben, Say Anything took the stage. Their latest album, …is a Real Boy, has been driving us crazy. And for a little while, it drove lead singer Max Bemis a little nuts, too. The last two times I tried to see Say Anything, they cancelled the tours because of Bemis’s mental health. Thankfully, though, after being diagnosed bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic, as well as spending some time in an institution, Bemis was well enough to hit the road.
No one who’s heard ...is a Real Boy, will be surprised that Bemis is bipolar. Take, for example, the songs “Alive With the Glory of Love” vs. “Every Man has a Molly.” The former is a romantic romp through WWII-era True Love; in the latter, he sings, “Molly Connolly just broke up with me over the revealing nature of the songs/You goddamn kids had best be gracious with the merch money you spend/’Cause for you I won’t ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again.” On stage, a certain bipolarity defined his movements, too. Sometimes it looked as if he had to fight every muscle on his fierce and feisty frame to move the way his brain wanted. Other times, he paraded around with an overdramatic grace consistent with the album’s tone; it was originally meant to be a rock opera.
The biggest bummer of the night? The Opera House seats — if ever there were a band that demanded sweaty pushing and shoving, Say Anything was it. The evening proved that this is one of those rare bands whose power and energy and emotion and intelligence and sneer and tenacity are all so powerful it’s difficult to say anything that captures them all the way, although fucking amazing comes pretty close.
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