Concert Reviews

Secondhand Serenade Serenades Cleveland

Wednesday night (3.12.08) the Agora Theater found yours truly swimming amongst a sea of highly excited and emotional sixteen year old girls out in support of the Breaking the Silence Tour, featuring Automatic Loveletter, The White Tie Affair, Making April and headliner Secondhand Serenade. I’m pretty sure I could almost see their little teenage hearts swelling, breaking, and crying razor blade tears while the lights were still bright and the house music was still blaring “Westside” by TQ. I suppose I had a vague idea of what I was in for before this show kicked off. Taking into consideration the incredible MySpace-ish, EMO appeal of the night’s headliner, Secondhand Serenade, and of course, the boy band good looks of Mr.Secondhand Serenade himself, John Vesely, one would think I would have prepared myself for this experience accordingly. Well, I did not, and spent the majority of the night feeling rather geriatric and mildly anxious as the teens alternately fought, danced, and made-out on all sides of me.

Prior to the show, I perused a fan site that described Vesely as “having the vocal range of an 80’s hair band, with looks to rival Elvis.” Or something to that extent. So of course, as I waited with bated breath for the band to take the stage, “80’s hair band” and “Elvis” kept pushing their distracting and glittery little mental pictures into my consciousness.

Currently on the road in support of 2008’s ‘A Twist in My Story,’ Vesely, from Melno, California and his band delivered an incredibly heartfelt set stuffed full of songs detailing the agony and joy that accompany that whole “being in love” thing. Despite the heavy emotional subject matter of most of the songs, SS did a great job of keeping the atmosphere and mood light, taking time to joke and talk with the audience throughout the set. At one point, Vesley even offered his body to the front row for hugging. Brave man. Brave, brave, man. He made it out alive, and the show went on. “Like a Knife,” “Awake,” and “Fall For You” were crowd favorites, all of which inspired most fans to sing along loudly and very badly. To my dismay, but perhaps for the best, I was never once reminded of the 80’s or of Elvis. However, there was one very special moment when Vesely’s band left the stage, everything got quiet, and time seemed to stand still as he channeled his inner Enrique Iglesias and delivered a hilariously melodramatic rendition of “Hero,” complete with false tears, quivering lips, and shaky breathing.

Without a doubt, The White Tie Affair, hailing from Chicago, Illinois, delivered the liveliest set of the night. With frontman Christopher Wallace and his killer cheekbones making girls swoon before their set even started, and with their new album ‘Get in Where You Fit In’ dropping on April 22nd, it was clear early on that TWTA were all about grabbing attention and keeping it. Appearing on stage like some sort of strange approximation of Maroon Five meets Fall Out Boy meets N’Sync that really liked to dance, TWTA ripped through a super pop dance set, featuring the popular single “Allow Me to Introduce Myself….Mr.Right,” (which they recently shot a video for) several more songs from the soon to be released record, and even a surprise cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean,” complete with Wallace donning a leather jacket.

Automatic Loveletter, led by petite front woman Juliet Simms and her acoustic guitar, served as direct support. Playing a selection of songs off of their 2007 EP, ‘Recover’ including “The Answer,” “August 28th 3:30 a.m.” and “Hush,” the shaggy little blonde unleashed her powerful and unique vocals effortlessly. Between songs, Simms and her brother, guitarist Tommy Simms, lovingly harassed each other, with Juliet asking the audience for a volunteer to hit her brother in the face in true sister style. Tommy and the band briefly took a break from the stage as Juliet and her acoustic guitar took the spotlight for a well-received solo version of “Make-Up Smeared Eyes,” following which she told the crowd a “secret,” that just so happened to pertain to the current coordinates of Secondhand Serenade’s John Vesley, who was attempting to hide anonymously in the crowd and watch the set from the floor. No hard feelings, however, as both Juliet Simms and John Vesley took on special guest rolls as vocalists during each others’ sets at opposite ends of the evening.

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