Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dashboard Confessional concert review: Anaheim

My review originally appeared on and can be viewed on the paper's Soundcheck blog. Photos by Kelly A. Swift

Audience participation is a common occurrence at many concerts, but the fervent reaction Dashboard Confessional elicits when it plays intimate venues is rare. Creative chief Chris Carrabba pours his heart out onstage and followers sing just as loud, as if their lives depended on it.

Many of us got a first glimpse of this phenomenon while watching Dashboard Confessional appear on MTV’s revamped “Unplugged” in 2002 - the first music artist without a platinum-selling album to do so since the show switched to a non-host format. An accompanying “Unplugged” disc eventually reached the sales plateau and three studio efforts subsequently went gold.

A decade removed from Dashboard Confessional’s full length debut disc “The Swiss Army Romance” in late 2000, teenagers and college students still predominantly dominate the emo rock act’s core fan base. Such was the case on Sunday night in Anaheim.

Carrabba has been touring solo acoustic – just like the early days following his exit from indie rock band Further Seems Forever – to support a limited edition box set reissue commemorating the 10th Anniversary of “Romance” (it is $149 and only available via 

This spring, Carrabba will mark another anniversary when he reunites with old band for the first time since a one-off gig in 2005 for a series of live dates (only The Paradise in Boston on April 11 and The Bamboozle Festival in E. Rutherford, New Jersey on May 1 have been announced thus far). Right before Christmas, the original lineup also put out an acoustic 7” vinyl single.

During an emotionally-charged, 90-minute set at the sold out Mouse House, the singer utilized several acoustic guitars and started by playing “Romance” front to back. Young girls squealed in delight the moment he hit the stage and launched into DC’s signature live tune “Screaming Infidelities.”

Not one to stand stock still at the microphone stand, he constantly roamed part of the stage in a semi-circle, reveling in the crowd’s voices taking over a key phrase or chorus. Several times, Carrabba wailed to the point of raspiness (“Turpentine Chaser,” “Ender Will Save Us All,” the more aggressive “Again I Go Unnoticed”). Talking was kept to a minimum, except when he related how the subdued “Shirts and Gloves” was inspired by a past girlfriend who was a long haul trucker.

Later, Carrabba covered his Mississippi alt-country singer Cory Branan’s “Tall Green Grass” – a song also tackled with the band last year between select shows opening for Bon Jovi. The rapid fire wordplay, finger picking style and a few curse words on the country blues was a refreshing change of pace.

Couples embraced and swayed along to the romantic “Stolen,” featuring an angelic vocal delivery. One acoustic guitar took quite a beating on the ultra-dramatic “The Best Deception.” Usual concert closer “Hands Down” was uplifting and fun.

Chris Conley was among three opening acts in O.C. Working off a set list containing some fan requests from Twitter, the front man for emo rock band Saves the Day did in a spirited, yet monochromatic 40 minutes onstage. Pondering whether to tackle a Fab Four tune, he said puzzlingly, “nobody knows the Beatles here” and decided against it. Conley’s reedy voice is definitely an acquired taste, but plenty of supporters voiced their approval after such songs as “Take Our Cars Now,” “Hold,” “Cars & Calories,” “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” and “I’m Sorry I’m Leaving.” 

Lady Danville recalled the sophisticated pop song craft and rambunctious live approach of Crowded House and Guster during its time onstage. The young Los Angeles indie pop trio impressed with taut three-part harmonies (the joyful “Cars”), percussionist Matt Frankel’s energetic box pounding, a sublime cover (MGMT’s “Kids”) and a humorous number utilizing ukulele and harmonica, where they gathered around one microphone (“I Want You Back”). I look forward to hearing their album debut this year. Definitely one to watch.

Regular Dashboard guitarist John Lefler, the first of three opening acts, played acoustically as well as some keyboards. His slapdash approach on the power pop-slanted tunes was endearing, recalling both Jason Falkner (ex-Jellyfish) and Gin Blossomsleader Robin Wilson.

Dashboard Confessional, House of Blues Anaheim, Jan. 16, 2011

Setlist: Screaming Infidelities/The Sharp Hint of New Tears/Living in Your Letters/Swiss Army Romance/Turpentine Chaser/Plain Morning/Age Six Racer/Again I Go Unnoticed/Ender Will Save Us All/Shirts and Gloves/The Brilliant Dance/The Good Fight/The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most/So Impossible/Tall Green Grass/Carry This Picture/As Lovers Go/Get Me Right/Saints and Sailors/Stolen/Remember to Breathe/The Best Deceptions/Vindicated/Hands Down

Dashboard Confessional plays the Troubadour in West Hollywood, Thursday-Friday; Saturday at House of Blues in San Diego. All are sold out.

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