Monday, October 29, 2007

Ender still saves us all... just with fewer throaty howls

Photo by Craig Shimala

Time was I knew every word of every Dashboard Confessional song. Which made his live shows, a veritable kumbaya of sing-along wonder, quite enjoyable. Every time Chris Carrabba stepped back from the mic, letting the audience take over a key line or the chorus, I'd shout/sing along right with them.

Monday night at the House of Blues, though, was a different story. I vaguely knew tunes from the band's two recent releases, Dusk and Summerand The Shade of Poison Trees, but what I enjoyed the most this time around were the old tunes -- the ones I knew the words to, the ones that got me through the heartache of high school crushes (mostly off Swiss Army Romance, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most and the So Impossible EP). Because for the first time, I didn't know many of the words when Carrabba stepped away from the spotlight.

Billed as a solo show, the gig would be more aptly titled as Chris Carrabba and Friends, with opening acts Augustana and John Ralston joining in for a rousing, adorable cover of Weezer's "El Scorcho" and Dashboard guitarist John Lefler and violinist Susan Sherouse setting up shop for some songs. Carrabba's long been ragged on for his King of Emo status, but at least the man can make fun of himself: "This song's about a girl," he said in between songs (it honestly doesn't matter which ones). "Shocking." There's something about the wistful tunes of "Age Six Racer" and "Remember to Breathe" that just can't be beat, although Carrabba's decision to take the latter electric is a bit of a misfire.

The main draw for attending a Dashboard show is the cathartic group therapy the experience inevitably becomes, enhanced by Carrabba's gutteral cries, which were missing tonight in some key moments ("Breathe" and "Vindicated" are key examples). But the man's still got it: The crowd was clapping and cheering 15 minutes before he took the stage, and the sardined-in pack of teens on the floor screamed bloody murder as soon as the curtain rose.

But a personal plea to Chris: Please stop closing with "Hands Down." It's a great song. We want to hear it. But if I have to see you walk onstage for your encore and hear you say, "This song is about the best day of my life," one more time... save me, Ender. - Kim Jeffries