Say Anything | 04.01.12

live say-anything_75With songs full of raw emotion and all the confusion of love and loss and anger and frustration, it made sense for Say Anything to play a more intimate room.

 The Firebird, St. Louis

 

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It’s not often you see the Firebird as crowded as it was Sunday night for Say Anything. Even the stage was feeling cramped—the equipment for all four touring acts sat on stage, slowly dissipating as each band played their set.

Just a bit after 7 p.m., the first act was up: The Front Bottoms, an indie-dance two-piece (with guest bass/keyboard player for live shows) from New Jersey. Though they may’ve been the first act, even The Front Bottoms had a handful of designated fans scattered throughout the room, screaming the songs with lead vocalist Brian Sella. They certainly had a few new fans by the end of their short, half-hour set. Fake Problems, four-piece alterna-punk, followed. The pretty boys from Naples, Fla., entertained the crowd with a sound something like if you mashed up Against Me! with OK Go. Singer/songwriter Kevin Devine was up third with his supporting musicians (affectionately called “the Goddamn Band”), thrashing around on stage to their particularly passionate indie rock songs.

live say-anything_250Though all three bands were well received, the crowd anxiously awaited the headliners (to the point where, between bands, a small group passed the time by singing Say Anything’s songs). Through the opening sets, the crowd was surprisingly loose-packed, with room to move not often seen at sold-out shows. But then Say Anything took the stage, greeted by a roar, a sea of X-marked, under-21 hands thrown in the air and bodies surging the stage—at one point, vocalist Max Bemis requested the floor take a step back to give those in front some breathing room. The 12-year-old, California-based pop-punk band might’ve been more than half the age of most of the main floor’s participants, but that didn’t stop them from knowing Say Anything’s catalog all the way from the B-sides (“A Walk Through Hell”) to their latest singles (“Say Anything”).

Say Anything powered through a solid 19-song set (including a three song encore), pulling hits and crowd pleasers from every stage of their career: “Belt,” “Property,” “Shiksa,” “The Church Channel,” and “Eloise,” to name a few. They focused heavily on their 2006 release, …Is a Real Boy, playing “Every Man Has a Molly,” “Spidersong,” and their most popular single, “Alive with the Glory of Love.” For the encore, Bemis invited the crowd to shout with him to “Admit It!” and the song’s sequel, “Admit It Again.”

I will admit, when I first heard Say Anything was playing the Firebird, I was a bit heartbroken—surely they were bigger than that, I thought. I remember listening to them when I was in high school six years ago, and I remember “Alive with the Glory of Love” being a regular on radio and music television stations.

After seeing Bemis interact with and reach out to the room of fans pushing to be just a little closer to him, however, it suddenly made sense. With songs full of raw emotion and all the confusion of love and loss and anger and frustration, it made sense for Say Anything to play a more intimate room. The intensity the band plays with is best carried in a more intimate setting, taking hold of the otherwise fairly tame room, sweeping the audience into a frenzy. Few bands manage to still sound fresh and raw after more than a decade of being in the music business, but Say Anything matched their fans’ enthusiasm with ease. “This will be your cardio tonight,” Bemis proclaimed before plunging into the rant-laden encore “and then you can go home.” | Eva Connors

 

Photos by Eva Connors

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