2002 was a landmark year for our music scene. Many of my all-time favorite albums were released that year, and in the last month or so, I've had the pleasure of seeing four of them performed in their entirety: Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends, New Found Glory's Stick and Stones, Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing and most recently, The Starting Line's Say It Like You Mean It. While each of them were among the best shows I attended all year, the latter was the one for which I was the most excited. I'm a big fan of all four bands, but it's The Starting Line who I haven't seen in the longest.
I last saw The Starting Line at the Massachusetts stop of their last tour before their hiatus in 2008. Nearly five years later, I was finally able to catch them again at The Paradise in Boston, MA on December 27th. I would have been satisfied to see them in any capacity, but to sweeten the deal, the band performed their debut album, Say It Like You Mean It, from front to back in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Furthering my excitement was the relatively small venue, quickly selling out its 933-person capacity.
Based on their name, I expected unknown openers RDGLDGRN to be hipster fodder, but their 25-minute opening set left me impressed. Their name is read as Red Gold Green, with each member adopting one of the colors as a monicker, as well as a matching wardrobe and guitar. Their intriguing mix of hip hop and indie rock, like a cross between Bloc Party and Gym Class Heroes, is far better than it sounds on paper. (And I'm not the only one impressed; Dave Grohl is reportedly playing drums on their upcoming debut.) They've only played a handful of shows in their young career, but you'd never know it based on how tight the performance was. Frontman Green even convinced a surprisingly large portion of the audience to dance along with him.
"We're Fake Problems, The Starting Line's favorite band!" is how vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren introduced his band to the crowd. Although the comment was obviously facetious, I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. Fake Problems remind me a of a mash-up between The Gaslight Anthem and The Matches, and their 40-minute set reflected that showmanship. The majority of the audience were unfamiliar with the band but seemed to enjoy the performance nonetheless.
The Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli entered the stage with a paper in hand. He proceeded to read an insulting, negative review of Say It Like You Mean It by AllMusic's Kurt Morris before crumpling it up and throwing it to the side. The band then kicked in with album opener "Up and Go." The loudest singalong of the night, unsurprisingly, came a few songs later from the band's breakthrough single, "The Best of Me," but the crowd was also eager for each of the other 12 tracks. Vasoli seemed impressed with the audience's knowledge of the deep cuts and mentioned that they were the loudest crowd of the tour. "I don't know what we did right with this record, but I'm really glad you guys love it," Vasoli stated. "This means a whole lot."
Following an hour of Say It Like You Mean It nostalgia, the fans chanted for "Ten more years!" rather than the typical "One more song!" The band returned for a 5-song encore. It featured two cuts from their two other albums ("Making Love to the Camera," "Are You Alone?," "Surprise, Surprise," "Birds") and an old favorite, "Greg's Last Day," to close out the show.
More importantly that just sounding good - which they did - all five members of The Starting Line appeared genuinely happy to be playing together again. (Although he wasn't a member of the band for the album, Brian Schmutz's keyboard playing added a new dimension to the old favorites, and he also provided backing vocals.) They made no mention as to whether we will see or hear from them again soon, but it would be a shame if we did not based on how strong of a tour they put together.