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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Dashboard Confessional at the Boston Opera House

Conventional wisdom holds that Dashboard Confessional has evolved into a more mainstream, arena-rock band, but don’t tell that to the 2500 kids who turned their August 13, 2006 Opera House show into a setting as intimate as any In-store performance. Australian power-popper Ben Lee kicked off the show with a short set of up-tempo rockers and witty banter. Next, LA’s pop-punk Say Anything attacked their slot with reckless abandon. Vocalist Max Bemis led his band through a set of intense songs with subjects from unfulfilling sexual encounters to yellow cats. Bemis’ much publicized battle with bipolar disorder lends dark authenticity to his chaotic on-stage behavior. Say Anything’s sound ranged from old school metal to near-disco punk reminiscent of The Killers. Their ability to seamlessly shift between genres sets them apart from many of their “emo” peers. Dashboard fans are known for devotion and participation. From the opening notes of “Heaven Here” to the last refrain of typical set closer “Hands Down,” the collected vocals of the audience shook the Opera House. Favorites like “The Good Fight” brought cheers and shrieks louder than any Ozzfest crowd I ever heard. Never underestimate the vocal power of 15-year-old girls. All this isn’t to say that Dashboard founder and frontman Chris Carrabba has not evolved as an artist. The band’s latest offering, Dusk and Summer, is their most mature. Some songs are somewhat uneven, especially compared to concert staples like “Screaming Infidelities.” However, “So Long, So Long” is a highlight, Carrabba taking a seat behind a piano and trading vocals with special guest John Ralston, a fellow singer/songwriter. Moments from the album’s supporting tour also reflected this evolution. Fans showed up to hear old favorites from albums such as The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most and The Drowning EP. Looking smooth in his collared shirt and pompadour, Carrabba occasionally set aside his acoustic guitar and played the part of a traditional rock vocalist. At times he resembled Bono and Morrissey, whether singing directly to an adoring front row fan or stripping off his shirt to the delight of girls (and boys) in the audience. A solo-acoustic version of “The Swiss Army Romance” nearly brought the house down, with the audience carrying the song and making Carrabba’s vocals almost negligible. “Remember To Breathe” was accompanied by simple visual projections, but the emphasis was on Carrabba and underrated guitar player John Lefler. Both songs featured nifty ad-libbing, with Carrabba adding a “Nikes or Converse” reference on “Remember” and incorporating some lyrics from opener Say Anything into “Swiss Army.” The show demonstrates a turning point for Dashboard Confessional, half of the night dedicated to the new, ‘adult’ Dashboard with their layered instruments (piano, violin) and modern rock hooks. The other half of the evening threw back to when Dashboard was just Carrabba and an acoustic guitar. Melding both halves of the Dashboard experience into a cohesive identity will challenge Carrabba in the years to come.