Concert Reviews

Say Anything, Manchester Orchestra, Biffy Clyro, Weatherbox – Diesel Club Lounge- Pittsburgh, PA – 3.25.08

Say Anything lead singer Max Bemis has to deal with enough issues—enough to, well, write a 27-song double disc detailing those issues, which he did in the band’s 2007 sophomore release, ‘In Defense of the Genre.’ As exhaustive as that record sounds, it’s not nearly as tiring as watching a few hundred teens vehemently chant along to the self-involved singer’s every lyric, which are usually about how his Hollywood film industry father sent him to a mental ward or the woes of society (a main topic of the band’s first and arguably more interesting album, ‘…Is A Real Boy.’) Bemis offers definite proof that a silver spoon can’t buy happiness, but it might be a shoe-in to the record industry.

Setting aside the fact that Bemis’ fragile mental state has been talked about almost as much as the emo punk music he makes, and regardless of whatever his or the fans’ issues may be, there was a major connection between performer and audience at tonight’s (3.25.08) show. The audience of Warped Tour-ready guys and girls expressed their affection for the sounds with violent moshing, crowd surfing, passionate singing and fists in the air. Of course, there were also the occasional couples who used every song as an excuse to make out, too.

Although most emo rock acts don’t incorporate much set design into their shows, Say Anything had large images of their latest album as a backdrop. Scenes of angry cartoon characters, armed with weapons and going head-to-head, appeared on each side of the stage.

The evening began with “No Soul” from ‘In Defense of the Genre,’ and the band continued with a balance of favorites off of both albums, playing “Shiksa (Girlfriend),” “Baby Girl, I’m A Blur,” “About Falling,” “Retarded in Love,” and “We Killed It.” Bemis dedicated a version of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Stand Inside Your Love” to the fans, although most of them had unfortunately never heard the song before. Bemis gave an enthusiastic show, grooving from side to side or bouncing in time, and offering his trademark tongue-out style while singing.

The great climax came with the encore performances, songs from their debut album ‘…Is A Real Boy.’ The entire touring entourage—Manchester Orchestra, Biffy Clyro and Weatherbox—joined Say Anything for a stage party sing-along during “Belt.” “This has been the best tour ever,” Bemis declared. It seemed like the fans and support bands agreed. They closed the show solo with their most confrontational song, “Admit It!!!,” in which Bemis attacks “prototypical non-conformists.”

“You know nothing about art or sex/That you couldn’t read in any trendy New York underground fashion magazine,”

the frontman shouted along with the masses of adoring teens, who seemed just as fired up and disgusted about all of these social and personal retaliations as Bemis himself. The fans were onboard with whatever the front man had to say. What all this amounts to is that Bemis just seems the blur the line between what it means to be some kind of wayward mental-patient and just a dude taking issue with life’s lemons. Regardless, he and his band put an amazing show, and rocked the sold out Diesel Club Lounge with as much as intensity as has been seen in quite awhile.

If the crowd was any indication of this band’s fame to come, this will probably be the last tour the five-member Manchester Orchestra plays as an opener. Their set opened to a chorus of cheers and shouts as they launched into the favorite “Wolves at Night,” a prelude of feedback and choked strumming that blooms into a wash of heavy chords and portentous organ.

Manchester Orchestra has steadily built a reputation as a must-see live act, fueled by their recent, chilling appearance on Letterman and a critically acclaimed LP. “You guys have been so incredibly awesome to us,” remarked lead singer Andy Hull before their final song, “especially the super fan guy over there who’s singing louder than me. Seriously, though… shut the fuck up.” Hull’s vocals have an unforgettable and winning signature, a childlike tone that clashes over the darkness and confrontation in his words, like he’s treading water and the music is constantly pulling him under. On the final lines of their epic closer he stood away from the mike, letting his voice dwindle in the rising chatter of the room. Their stage presence and live sound were shockingly impressive, and left the crowd begging for more.

Scottish three-piece Biffy Clyro gets credit for waking up the house, dropping their first number on full-blast with a relentless, clear riff. Lead guitarist and singer Simon Neil looks like a son of Malibu money (no shirt, tight jeans, white shoes, scattered tats, and mucho hair) but he plays like a machine, ably supported by Ben and James Johnston on drums and bass.

Alternately explosive and astonishingly precise, Neil repeatedly ambushed the audience with trance-inducing string work and inverted melodies that flipped into a barrage of calculated noise. His lead vocals had a yelp that stayed reigned in, although the brogue could use subtitles, and the Johnstons were too stingy with their harmonies. Normally a microphone near a drummer is cause for concern, but their blend of voices was a pleasant shock, prominently featured in their single “Who’s Got a Match?”

Weatherbox opened to a half-full venue and by the end of their brief set the crowd was getting restless. Brian Warren’s nasal delivery didn’t translate live, and the first two songs’ wall-to-wall lyrics added a layer of monotony to some otherwise enjoyable hooks. Bassist Dave Silverman stole the energy, leaping around stage center and feeding off the percussion, as Warren and guitarist George Pritzker stood as still as pillars. The majority of their set was played off their latest disc, ‘American Art.’

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