When the lights dimmed on a particularly blustery Sunday night in Columbus, OH, the fervid eruption of a thousand teenagers was enough to render the cheery theme to Curb Your Enthusiasm bursting from the Newport Music Hall’s massive PA system nearly inaudible. And when the sextet of impassioned young musicians known as Say Anything, led by Max Bemis, the frantic neo-savior of innumerable mall rat souls, strolled onto the stage the zealous masses welcomed them with open arms and throats ready to be lost.
The group tore through a lengthy set of their most well-known tracks, their triple guitar attack bobbing and weaving through somewhat bizarre song structures and incorporating a number of electronic samples and backing tracks. Songs such as 2005 hit single “Alive with the Glory of Love” and an amped-up version of “That Is Why” from the group’s most ambitious release, the 2007 double-album In Defense of the Genre, proved their command of not only the stage, but their deserved dominion over the eager fans that filled the sold-out crowd.
The band were joined by Bemis’ noticeably pregnant wife (and Eisley singer) Sherri Dupree-Bemis for the sixth song of the set, “Shiksa (Girlfriend)”, following it up with the romping circus waltz of “Mara and Me” which exploded in to an instrumental passage that saw the singer’s microphone smashing a crash cymbal repeatedly with expert precision. High voltage renditions of “I Hate Everyone” and “Woe” mixed well with the subdued energy of crowd favorites such as “Baby Girl, I’m A Blur” and “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”, and when Dupree-Bemis returned to the stage to provide backup vocals to “Overbiter”, from 2012’s Anarchy My Dear, the group had the crowd eating out of the palm of their collective hand.
Drummer Cody Linton rolled through his kit with a masterful display of eye-catching flash without sacrificing his solid role as time-keeper, but his performance was hindered by one major factor; his drums seemed to be barely amplified. Though he deftly blasted his snare with a steadfast assurance, the power was barely felt. His over-reliance on his drum sampling pad also had a somewhat detrimental effect on his substantial groove, sticking to triggered claps and other augmentations when a switch to his acoustic kit might have provided a greater depth to certain songs by the time the third chorus came along.
In fact, despite the spirited performance of all six musicians (who also included former The Academy Is… bassist Adam Siska), the concert was unable to reach it’s true kinetic potential simply due to the underwhelming power produced by the venue’s sound system. The crowd and band worked together to keep the energy level percolating, but the impact was restrained nonetheless. Ending with the furious “Burn A Miracle”, Say Anything retreated briefly to the wings before returning to the stage for encore performances of “Belt” and finally “The Stephen Hawking” which Bemis’ was quick to point out is their longest song, appeasing a crowd that stuck things out until the final chords had rung to completion.
Despite the unfortunate sound they had to work with, the band’s performance was superb, delivering an impressive set that hit all of their albums and truly encapsulated the unique sound they’ve been cultivating for the past twelve years. One can only imagine what sort of fury they could conjure up with the proper equipment at their disposal.
By Alex Mosie
OurVinyl | Contributor