With the popularity of full album tours, it was only a matter of time until bands started teaming up for such outings. But I never expected the first one to be such a 1-2 knockout as Say Anything and Saves the Day. The former is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their landmark album, ...Is a Real Boy, while the latter commemorates 15 years of their influential sophomore effort, Through Being Cool. Adding Reggie and the Full Effect as support was icing on the pop-punk-ish cake.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Say Anything more than a handful of times over the past decade, but I've never seen mastermind Max Bemis so invigorated, so confident, so happy to be on stage as he was at The Palladium in Worcester, MA on November 30th. His excitement was matched only by that of the crowd, who were eager to hear his modern masterpiece in its entirety. And the set began with a song of rebellion...
Say Anything recently underwent some major line-up changes, but their performance showed no evidence of it. It should come as no surprise, considering Bemis has constructed something of a scene supergroup: longtime guitarist/keyboardist Parker Case (ex-JamisonParker), touring guitarists Kenny Bridges (Moneen) and Greg Dunn (Moving Mountains), bassist Garron DuPree (Eisley) and drummer Reed Murray (ex-Tallhart).
Bridges seems to be fitting in particularly well. He and Bemis have already developed a wonderful on-stage chemistry. Then again, I'd bet that Bridges's infectious energy and swagger could create synergism with anyone. From sliding across the stage on his knees to jumping off amplifiers, his showmanship is straight out of a larger-than-life '80s rock show - and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
Angst may be the cornerstone of ...Is a Real Boy, but the album also seems to have been scientifically engineered for cathartic singalongs. And that's just what the audience did (despite the fact that half of them looked like they were around 8 when the album came out). From the call-and-response of opener "Belt" to the climax of fan favorite "Admit It!!!," no song went unsung. Several times, Bemis could be seen removing his in-ear monitor to hear the capacity crowd shout back the words he wrote more than 10 years ago.
Typically, I much prefer to hear an album from front to back on these types of tours, but it was undeniably more effective for Say Anything to stop short after 10 of the effort's 11 cuts. Bemis and company transitioned into three tracks from ...Was a Real Boy ("Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too," "Little Girls," "Most Beautiful Plague") before returning to conclude with "Admit It!!!" After the music stopped, Bemis went down to the crowd to high five and hug the troopers in the front row.
Saves the Day is probably one of the hardest-working bands of their stature, so it was nice to see them reflect on their accomplishments by revisiting Through Being Cool. It's arguably one of the most influential pop-punk albums of all time (and one of my personal favorites), so it was a bit disheartening to see the younger portion of the audience largely unfamiliar with the material. The band did not let it effect them, however.
Vocalist/guitarist Chris Conley barely said a word to the crowd throughout their set, instead burning through as much material as possible. They plowed through the album in a little over a half hour, leaving them another 35 minutes to play 10 more songs. In between such classics as "At Your Funeral," "Jessie & My Whetstone" and "Anywhere with You," they found time for some jam sessions to keep things fresh.
The band's traverse through 15 years of music was impressively seamless. Conley's voice has noticeably changed over the years, as have the musicians surrounding him, but their set was a reminder that Saves the Day are as strong as ever. They closed with "Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off to Heaven," which brought an army of crowd surfers to the front of the venue.
To kick off the night, Reggie and the Full Effect frontman James Dewees casually walked on stage in a full Santa costume with a PBR in hand, followed by his backing band - the members of Pentimento - dressed as elves. Reggie was billed as performing 2003's Under the Tray in its entirety, and while the majority of the setlist drew from it, they skipped around a few times. Most of the audience seemed unphased, but it was a curious change of plans.
After playing the frivolous yet undeniably catchy "F.O.O.D.," Dewees addressed the nonbelievers: "Reggie is a weird band if you a never seen us. These are all the songs I brought to The Get-Up Kids and they said no." As if the crowd needed further proof, Dewees ended the set by stripping down to an ill-fitting "sexy" cop outfit and performing "Love Reality" as his British alter-ego, Fluxuation.
Some of these anniversary shows offer little more than a shot of nostalgia, but Say Anything and Saves the Day provided much more than that. The show gave fans - and, I'd surmise, the musicians themselves - a refreshing reminder of just how profound an impact these bands have had on countless people.
It has been said many times that this fall (and 2011 in general) has been exceptionally good for new music. Let's not forget that the tours the artists are going on in support of those releases are equally as exciting. One of the more noteworthy line-ups as of late is a co-headlining tour between Saves the Day and Bayside with support from I Am the Avalanche and Transit. I caught the sold out show at the Royale in Boston, MA on October 8.
Opening the show was Massachusetts' own Transit. Frontman Joe Boynton said that the band hadn't had the chance to play in their home state to celebrate the release of their new album, Listen and Forgive, so they considered it their CD release show. Despite typically playing with no barricade, they received a warm reception from their hometown crowd as they split their half hour set between old and new material. They ended with "Please Head North," a fan favorite that got the crowd exited.
Up next was I Am the Avalanche. From the opening of "Brooklyn Dodgers," it was obvious that fans are happy to have the band back with their first new album in six years, Avalanche United. Perhaps no one seemed more excited than frontman Vinnie Caruana, as he was clearly joyed to sing the new songs and see fans reciprocate. The new material seems to have more energy behind it, and that translated well into the live show. Bayside's Anthony Raneri (to whom Caruana referred as "a much better singer than me") came out to sing on "Gravedigger's Argument." Their set concluded with "I Took A Beating," at the end of which Caruana called for a circle pit.
As previously mentioned, this is co-headlining run between Bayside and Saves the Day. While they alternate who closes out the show, they each play for about an hour. If the tour is in the same city two nights in a row, as it was in Boston, the bands change up their setlists a good deal to keep things interesting. I had the pleasure of attending two nights and thoroughly enjoyed them both. (Coincidentally, I think both Saves the Day's and Bayside's setlists were a little stronger on their respective "headlining" nights, but that's a matter of opinion.)
As a band with such an extensive back catalogue, it's always a surprise to see what Saves the Day will throw into their set. They are also supporting a new album, the recently released Daybreak. The end result was a handful of new songs mixed in with a healthy dose of fan favorites. Much has been said about the group's revolving members over the years, but the current line-up may very well be the best incarnation of Saves the Day yet, as cemented by the live show. Guitarist Arun Bali particularly shines, playing the older material with ease while showcasing his skills on the new songs.
Reaction to the new material was expectedly more reserved that that of old material, but a highlight of the night was witnessing the band perform "Daybreak" in its entirety. The five-part, ten and a half-minute track was executed to perfection by the band, leaving many fans in awe - although other attendees didn't seem to realize what they were witnessing. The band wrapped it up after that with "At Your Funeral" as the majority of the audience joined vocalist Chris Conley in singing along.
"Blame It On Bad Luck" is usually reserved for later in a Bayside set, so fans knew they were in for a treat when the band began their set with it. More accurately, Raneri began with it, performing the opening chorus and verse solo before being joined by his bandmates as the Bayside backdrop was released from the rafters. Their set ranged from their latest effort, Killing Time, to their early albums - although Shudder remains under-represented.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Bayside is one of the most consistent acts I've seen. Both live and on record, they never disappoint. The band is one of the few that can sound like they do on record in a live setting while still giving all their energy. Not to be outdone by Bali, Bayside guitarist Jack O'Shea is one of the standout guitarists in the scene, playing riffs and solos effortlessly. Caruana joined the band to sing his part of "The Walking Wounded" before ending the night on a high note with "Devotion and Desire."
Raneri said that, despite only being three days in, this is already his favorite tour that he has ever been on. And there's good reason for that: the line-up is one of the year's strongest, and all of the bands give it their all with no need for gimmicks. It's hitting most major markets, and I highly recommend attending if you're a fan of any act on the bill. You're guaranteed to be pleased from start to finish.
Co-headlining tours can be disastrous. Too often, there is one band that consistently outshines and outdraws the other. Further, there are times when the respective audiences don't mesh. These issues were not a problem for the Say Anything/Motion City Soundtrack tour, however. The pairing was a match made in heaven when it rolled through the House of Blues in Boston on November 8.
Opening the show was A Great Big Pile of Leaves. The Brooklyn trio's indie rock sound doesn't match the pop punk tone of the rest of bill, but they refused to let that affect their performance. Their 25-minute set was especially impressive considering that this is the first real tour.
Saves the Day was up next. They have been an active group longer than the other bands on the tour, but they were nothing but happy to be part of such a great package. Frontman Chris Conley's showed off his soaring pipes throughout the 45-minute offering, with a set featuring a mix of everything from old favorites ("Rock Tonic Juice Magic", "Third Engine") to brand new songs from the band's forthcoming Daybreak.
Motion City Soundtrack was scheduled to play next, but the audience received a special treat that night. The band entered the stage playing the pulsating beat of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole". They were joined by Say Anything vocalist Max Bemis to sing the spot-on cover.
Following the song, the band explained that their singer, Justin Pierre, had lost his voice. In lieu of canceling the show, they recruited some of their talented tourmates to fill in. While some members of the audience seemed disappointed to not see the band in their full capacity, most were excited at the prospect of what other surprises were in store.
And the surprises kept coming. The Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli, who is filling in on bass for Say Anything on the tour, sang the next two songs, including fan favorite "My Favorite Accident." He would return later in the set to sing three more tunes.
Other guests included A Great Big Pile of Leaves' energetic singer Pete Weiland, Say Anything guitarist Jake Turner, Saves the Day drummer Claudio Rivera, Saves the Day guitarist Arun Bali, and Conley. The latter concluded the unique engagement with atypical closer "Hold Me Down".
Not every guest knew all of the words to their respective songs due to the last-minute nature of the endeavor, but they all seemed to enjoy themselves - and the audience was more than happy to fill in any blanks. Pierre didn't make a peep all night, but he rocked out harder than ever on his guitar to make up for it.
Say Anything had a tough act to follow, but they managed to match the fun of Motion City Soundtrack's performance. They kicked it off with "Crush'd", an awkward choice for an opener which they made work. Their hour and fifteen-minute set contained many mid-tempo, beat-heavy songs ("Baby Girl, I'm a Blur", "Do Better"), but the crowd went wild whenever they busted out a faster tune.
The set contained a couple of surprise treats as well. The band played "Colorblind" from their little-known, self-released debut, Baseball. They were also joined by members of Saves the Day to perform "Crawl" from Two Tongues, a collaborative project between Bemis and Conley. The set ended on a high note with a rousing rendition of the anthemic "Admit It!"
Bemis noted multiple times how happy he was to be on the tour and how appreciative he was of the crowd. He even went as far as saying that it is his favorite tour of which he has ever been a part. And, judging by the hoarse voices and smiling faces of fans as they exited the venue, much of the audience was in agreement.
Additional videos available here. See all of my photos here.
There are few bands that I've consistently enjoyed over the years more than New Found Glory and few albums that I've sung along to more than their 2000 breakthrough, New Found Glory. When it was announced that the band would be playing the entire album from front to back in celebration of its ten year anniversary and that fellow pop-punk upstarts Saves the Day would also be on the tour, I knew that I couldn't miss the nostalgic show when the tour rolled through the House of Blues in Boston on February 21st.
Kicking the night off was Michigan's Fireworks. The quintet were a fitting choice for openers, seeing as how they probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for New Found Glory's self-titled effort. They played their blend of pop and punk with plenty of energy, even though they seemed a bit awkward on such a big stage. The band was unknown to the majority of the crowd but still had a few people singing along, especially during their catchy closer, "Detroit". It's no wonder that this is the second time that New Found Glory has taken them out on tour.
Hellogoodbye were the oddballs of the tour. After the success of their debut EP back in 2004, the band had a fairly big following, but they've since been plagued with record label woes and, as a result, lost a lot of momentum. The crowd was largely uninterested, many of them talking over the band or yelling directly at them, especially when they played new material. The two old songs that they did play, "Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn" and "Dear Jamie... Sincerely Me", received warm reactions. After imitating an exaggerated Bostonian accent, to get in good with the crowd keyboardist Joseph Marro joked that all of their songs were actually slowed, unrecognizable versions of songs by hardcore legends American Nightmare and Converge. For a group once known for zany stage antics such as playing in costumes, they've really come into their own as musicians without losing that sense of fun, regardless of the lack of crowd enthusiasm.
The show really got going when Saves the Day hit the stage. They toured with New Found Glory a decade prior, and both bands are still going strong as if no time had passed. Save for vocalist/guitarist Chris Conley, the rest of the band members were replaced last year, but the new line-up sounds as tight as ever. Their set contained a good mix of material spanning their career, but old favorites such as "At Your Funeral" and "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic" received the biggest reactions from the audience.
With anticipation growing for the arrival of New Found Glory, the house lights finally went down and Miley Cirus' "Party in the USA" blared through the sound system. The Floridians took the stage and immediately set it off with "Better Off Dead". As promised, they played their self-titled effort from beginning to end. Even though you knew what was coming next, each song was exciting. It was particularly cool to hear songs that the group rarely plays live, such as "Second to Last" and "Eyesore", and get some insight on the songs (for example, "Black and Blue" was the first song written for the album). The band's energy was reciprocated by the audience, with plenty of singing, crowd surfing and lighthearted moshing. For album closer "Ballad for the Lost Romantics", guitarist Chad Gilbert went on the barricade with a microphone so the crowd could partake in the anthemic singalong.
After the completion of their rendition of the record, the band came back for an encore containing popular singles and fan favorites, including "All Downhill From Here" and "Head On Collision". Following a quick cover of Gorilla Biscuits' "No Reason Why", the band concluded the night with "My Friends Over You", which had the entire sold out crowd singing along so loud that they nearly drowned out the performers.
I've had the pleasure of seeing New Found Glory so many times that I've lost count, but they never disappoint. This was perhaps the best show I've ever seen them play. The band was having a good time not for themselves nor the mainstream audience, but rather, as Gilbert pointed out, the the entire tour was for the old school fans. The band proved that the album is just as sentimental to them as it is to their fans. It's great to see that they still has as much passion as they did ten years ago.
Also be sure to check out all of my photos from the show here.