Sometimes, when a show is sold out, it feels like special things can happen with the group of witnesses present; as if those holding tickets comprise some kind of secret club until they pour out the doors again. This was the feeling on Thursday night at Brooklyn Steel, where a sea of merch-hoarding fans were eagerly anticipating Dashboard Confessional’s sold-out New York tour stop. Appeasing them in the moments before the headlining act, openers Beach Slang not only supplied some 90s covers to keep everyone happy, but presumably, the first 8 digits of frontman James Alex’s personal phone number (as suggested by the Philly area code). “I would hope that everyone who has their phones out is trying to text me and tell me how fucking great we are. Well, my phone number is 610-217-63…” he teased, right before they played a dead-on cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” “You snuck in the time to see us before Dashboard comes out and melts your hearts! We appreciate that.”
The excitement in the room was caffeinated and affectionate when Dashboard Confessional took the stage at 9:52pm, the pack of fans up front clearly well-versed in the discography of the long-running emo rock band (founded in 1999 in Boca Raton, Florida). Led by singer and guitarist Chris Carrabba, who immediately promised, with a contagious smile, to “start with a really, really deep cut,” the group dove into the show with “This Bitter Pill” from D/C’s 2001 debut album, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, swimming in a surge of nostalgic screams spurred by the song’s first chords. A memorable force on stage, Carrabba had an inexplicable way of making eye contact with everyone in his line of sight, seemingly one at a time, as if welcoming each attendee in turn as he sang. Right after their second song, “Don’t Wait” – a throwback to 2006 album Dusk and Summer – he thanked the tightly-knit crowd with more than his gaze. “It’s so beautiful to be with you guys tonight,” said Carrabba graciously. “Honestly, we feel so, so very lucky to be with you…still! I can’t believe it. I just want to let you know that, from time to time, we’re just gonna stop for a second to appreciate that we’re here with you, ‘cause we just can’t fucking believe it.”
While the very concept of emo can be pinned to feelings of angst or moodiness in the negative sense – and the performance was not lacking in stirring and vulnerable moments – there was a perceptible silver lining to every song Dashboard Confessional played; no wallowing or whining, just fighting to find a way forward. For those who associate more with the “rock” part of the “emo rock” genre, the show was satisfyingly hard and heavy; nothing soft about their brew of drums, guitar, bass, and adrenaline – other than the tender, acoustic moments when it was just Carrabba’s voice and a respectfully hushed crowd. Dashboard Confessional’s hit-filled setlist lingered on their debut record (soon to follow opener “This Bitter Pill” were “The Good Fight,” “Again I Go Unnoticed” and “Saints And Sailors”) as well as the band’s seventh studio album, Crooked Shadows (“Catch You,” “Belong,” “Heart Beat Here,” and “We Fight”), which came out last month, marking D/C’s first record in 9 years. Their BK Steel show also featured a cover of Amy Shark’s “Adore,” as well as a rush of fan favorites that closed it all out – including “Screaming Infidelities,” “Stolen,” “Vindicated,” and an applause-fuelled encore of “Hands Down.”
It was a nice combination of things: the band’s enveloping impacts, the magnetic darkness in the ebbs and flows of Carrabba’s voice, the rawness of his guitar solos, and the choir-like echo of fans singing along. Most exciting, perhaps, was the variable quality of his vocals, which could quickly liquify into something delicate, freeze with heartbreak or indifference, or burst aflame in a moment of anguish. Wondering where his voice would take them next, the audience was wrapped around his finger. They participated wholeheartedly in call-and-responses that Carrabba initiated with simple suggestions mid-song – a skill that is surely innate, by now, from Dashboard Confessional’s years of rigorous touring. “Okay, I’ve got an idea,” he said early on. “What if I sang something to you, and you sang it back to me?” The reaction was instant each time, at an impressive volume, proving the lasting power of Dashboard Confessional’s legacy.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley