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With a Little Help From My Friends – Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything in Boston

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Say Anything
Motion City Soundtrack
Saves the Day
A Great Big Pile of Leaves
House of Blues Boston
November 7th, 2010

I haven’t lost my voice in a long time. In fact, the last time I lost my voice was in 2007, the day after a crazy Motion City Soundtrack show at a tiny club in Boston then known as Axis. That giant sing-along marked  the last time Motion City Soundtrack would play a proper headlining  show in the city until they visited the House of Blues for a co-headlining gig with Say Anything  on November 9th.

In an interesting turn of events, MCS lead singer Justin Pierre would end up losing his voice prior to the show, rendering him unable to sing any of the band’s songs. Instead of canceling the show, the band would recruit a revolving door of singing talent to fill in, helping to turn an unfortunate situation into what was likely one of the band’s most memorable performances.

Since this review is mainly about Motion City Soundtrack, I might as well skip straight to their set and recount the great performances by Saves the Day and Say Anything a little later. I attended the Providence show two night earlier, and it was very obvious that Justin was having some major vocal issues. The next day, he would author a blog entry explaining the situation. It was pretty simple. He had come down with some type of sickness and wouldn’t be able to sing at the Boston show. Therefore, members of the tour’s other bands would handle the singing duties while Pierre would stick to guitar.

While everyone in the crowd may have known that Justin wouldn’t be singing, nearly every other aspect of the set came as a surprise. The biggest of those surprises came early, as the band took the stage under blinding strobe lights to the thud of an industrial dance beat. Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis then grabbed the mic and helped kick off the set with a 100% awesome cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Head Like a Hole.” Bemis, dressed in black from head to toe, channeled his inner Trent Reznor to near perfection.

In what would turn out to be a star-studded set, Bemis would exit stage left to prepare for Say Anything’s set, only to be replaced by  Kenny Vasoli, who is not only a current Say Anything guitarist, but also  the lead singer of Person L and The Starting Line. With a huge smile on his face, Vasoli would lead the band through early favorites “My Favorite Accident” And “Capital H.” While Vasoli didn’t need much help remembering the words, he did have a music stand with printed lyrics positioned nearby. Of course, the crowd stepped in to help whenever there was any doubt as to which line came next.

At this point, it began to look like the band was auditioning new singers, as Vasoli left and was replaced by afro-ed Saves the Day drummer (that’s right, drummer) Claudio Rivera. Considering he doesn’t actually sing for a living, the way he handled “Worker Bee” and “Better Open the Door” was quite impressive. The Saves the Day parade then continued, as guitarist Arun Bali shared vocal duties with MCS drummer Tony Thaxton on “Disappear.”

Open mic night then continued as Say Anything guitarist Jake Turner stepped in for “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” who was followed by A Great Big Pile of Leaves frontman Pete Weiland for “A Lifeless Ordinary” and “Everything is Alright,” which had the crowd shouting the lyrics back at Weiland’s outstretch mic stand. One of the more remarkable aspects of the set was how well it was received by the fans. Despite the fact none of the fill-ins sounded a whole lot like Pierre, the crowd’s enthusiasm never faltered.

Vasoli would then make another appearance, this time to cover “LG FUAD,” “Indoor Living,” and “The Future Freaks Me Out.” All the while, Pierre did his best to tear it up on guitar, racing from side to side, bouncing up and down, and generally enjoying his new found freedom on stage.  MCS would close their set with the help of Saves the Day frontman Chris Conley and two (somewhat) mellow numbers, “Last Night” and “Hold Me Down.” Despite the fact that he stared at a lyric sheet throughout the two songs, Conley still provided a very fitting end to the set.

Overall, Motion City Soundtrack’s revolving lead singer experiment worked much better than anyone could have hoped. Each temporary lead singer should be commended for his efforts, especially considering many of them had just learned their parts earlier in the day. The performance would somehow overshadow both Say Anything’s headlining set and Saves the Day’s opening set, which also deserve some coverage.

Saves the Day sounded great as usual. They did a great job mixing up their set list, featuring a number of Through Being Cool favorites along with newer material, including three songs from their upcoming record Daybreak. While only a small portion of the crowd may have been into their set, it is exciting to think about what they’ll be able to do headlining a show at a smaller venue sometime soon (hopefully).

Say Anything was the final act of the night, and they did their best to match Motion City Soundtrack’s performance. They certainly did just that. While Say Anything songs have a tenancy to come across very well in a live setting, they sounded as good on this night as I’ve ever heard them, and I’ve been to quite a few of their shows. The crowd, seemingly warmed up after MCS’s performance, was just as good, jumping, dancing, and singing themselves hoarse throughout the hour and 15 minute set.

While old standouts like “Woe” and “Alive with the Glory of Love” received huge reactions, songs from their recent self-titled full length got the crowd moving as well, especially “He Won’t Follow You” and “Do Better.”  Bemis continually thanked the fans for their support, while at the same time begging them to come back the next time the band was in town. Say Anything is seemingly one of the venue’s favorite acts, having played the House of Blues three times in the past year alone.

Bemis and Co. would close the set with a two song encore. While “Plea” slowed things down, “Admit It!” finished the night on a high note, with both fists and fans flying through the air. While this may be the standard closing number for a Say Anything show, it put an exclamation point on a night that was anything but predictable.

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Show Roundup: Say Anything and World/Inferno Friendship Society on Halloween

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

It appears I’ve gotten pretty far behind in posting my show reviews, so I’ve decided that instead of letting these two shows go forgotten, it would be a good idea to compile a few short reviews in one post, so here it goes:

Say Anything with Eisley, Moneen, Moving Mountains
House of Blues Boston, October 30th 2009
My third time seeing Say Anything was certainly the least enjoyable for a number of reasons. For one, the openers were quite disappointing. Moving Mountains slogged through a sleep-educing set, while Eisley was as ear-splitingly bad. Sandwiched in between these two crowd killers was Moneen, an underrated Canadian act who always put on a great show. They once again held up their end of the bargain with an energy packed 25 minute set.

Say Anything took the stage and started the show with a number of familiar tracks, including “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” and “Alive with the Glory of Love.” The crowd absolutely ate it up. Nearly every song received a huge reaction, including material from the band’s new self-titled album, which at that point was still a week away from being released.

While Bax Bemis and Co. chose a decent set list and did everything they could to work the crowd into a frenzy, I felt they lacked the enthusiasm

Say Anything's Bemis

that had marked previous shows. The between song banter seemed scripted, and the band sounded sloppy at times. While it is clear that Say Anything is as popular as they’ve ever been, I hope their Boston show was simply an off night and not a sign of things to come.

World/Inferno Friendship Society with O’Death
Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center, October 31st 2009

While Say Anthing may have been a bit dull, World/Inferno Friendship Society’s annual “Hollow Mass” the next night was anything but. The New York City cult favorites put on a show that was memorable on a number of different levels. The band  played on the 7th floor of the Manhattan Center Complex, directly above a sold-out Halloween night Weezer performance. While security was tight at the door, it sure wasn’t up in what equated to the building’s attic. Stage divers filled the air as the crowd merrily danced along to every song.

In between tracks, frontman Jack Terricloth led the crowd in a celebration of the Great Pumpkin, revealing the Ten Commandments of Halloween, including “Thou Shalt Not Be A Whining Jerk” and “Thou Shall Covet Thy Neighbor’s Candy.” Yes, it was as strange as it sounds, just like all of the band’s shows. As the night progressed, any semblance of normalcy went out the window, as Terricloth held a prized pumpkin aloft while crowd surfers crashed to the stage around him.

Terricloth and his Pumpkin

The band would close the show with “Pumpkin Time” and finally “Ich Errinere Mich an Weimar.” During the final song, the crowd would rush the stage, leading to a scene that was complete bedlam. Terricloth finished the song while being crowd surfed by his adoring fans, as scores of others gathered around the rest of the band. I’ve seen a few World/Inferno shows, and I’ve always walked out amazed by  the spirit of the band and their fans. This show perfectly illustrated everything that makes the band unique: their theatrical flair for the dramatic, their crazed cult following, and most importantly, their ability to play great live music.