The Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
October 23, 2009
”Duuuuude, I’m gonna rock so fucking hard. I’m gonna rock hard as hell, dude!” said the teenager behind me at The Vic Theatre in Chicago as we waited for Say Anything to take the stage. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a “super fan” like the young man that couldn’t stop talking about how hard he intended to rock. However, I am quite a big fan of Say Anything. Every time they’ve been to Chicago since 2006, I’ve been there. I’ve enjoyed them at The Congress Theatre, The Metro and The House of Blues. This was the first time Max and the boys headlined at The Vic and it is not a show I will soon forget!!
It’s rare for Say Anything to sell out in Chicago and The Vic is a smaller venue than the others they have played. This time around they did sell out and I could tell the moment I stepped off the Belmont bus. The kids attending the show invaded the intersection of Belmont and Sheffield. It was like a Say Anything street festival, except the only vendors were ticket scalpers!
More photos of Say Anything after the jump…
The crowd seemed rather bored with the openers and the buzz of conversations filled the venue, rather than the music. Well, until Say Anything’s lead singer, Max Bemis, snuck out to play guitar with his wife’s band, Eisley, for one song. Max’s brief appearance sent the crowd into a frenzy. Once he disappeared the anticipation and impatience grew. Eisley performed a couple more songs and once they left the stage, the kids started chanting. The crowd was ready. Finally, the lights dimmed. Pieces of the cartoon inspired metropolis set began to light up. The crowd squealed with delight, the moment was finally upon us. The infectious beat of “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too” began to play, the stage lit up, the roar of the crowd was deafening and out came: Max Bemis (vocals), Alex Kent (bass), Jake Turner (guitar, backing vocals), Parker Case (keyboard, guitar, backing vocals), Jeff Turner (guitar, backing vocals) and Coby Linder (drums).
The boys rocked matching outfits, obviously inspired by the cover of their upcoming self-titled album, Say Anything, that comes out November 3rd. Holy makeover, Batman! The guys looked more like a polished boy band than the emo/punk/indie band I was used to. They wore crisp white shirts, black slacks, matching tennis shoes and almost identical clean cut, slicked back haircuts. Not only did they look even more in sync (Haha, get it? ‘Nsync! HAHA) than before, but it turned out they played the same way. They took their places on stage. Max began to belt out the lyrics to “Wow…”, but it was hard to hear him over the audience. Where did all these fans come from and how did they know all the words? I already mentioned that I’ve been to many Say Anything shows, but this show, this crowd – the vibe was unreal! It was unlike any other Say Anything show I’ve been to. The band was extremely animated. Say Anything has always put on energetic, fun performances, but they really stepped it up this time around. The crowd hung off of every word, lyric, note that came out of Max’s mouth.
They proceeded to rock out old and new songs alike. The set list went like this:
“Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”
“Alive with the Glory of Love”
“It’s a Metaphor, Fool”
“Yellow Cat/Red Cat”
“Have at Thee”
“This Is Fucking Ecstasy”
“Baby Girl, I’m a Blur”
“Mara and Me”
“Slowly Through a Vector”
MINI FINALE (Max Solo)
The band was incredibly tight and played better than I can remember. They interacted with each other more and more with each song. It genuinely looked like they were having a blast. As they neared the end of “Shiksa” Max had an all-knowing smirk on his face while looking down at the pit, I think at that moment he began to see that this sold-out Chicago crowd was filled with super fans. The energy that exuded from the stage bled into the pit which bled up into the seats and right back to the stage. I’ve never seen Say Anything command a crowd like they did at The Vic. The band members really took turns multitasking this time around as well, especially Parker. He went from keyboard, to guitar, to singing, to dancing and back – all in one song. I think this is an excellent representation that these guys are really working on honing their craft. Alex also got to take a turn singing and joined Max in belting out “Have at Thee”. Many members of the band chimed in singing during the new song, “Mara and Me”. These guys bounced off the walls as the show went on. They acted out parts of songs with their instruments. They jumped, flipped around and just rocked harder than I’ve ever witnessed.
There was a hilarious moment when Jake flipped, almost fell off the stage and almost knocked Parker and his keyboard over. There was a brilliant save by Parker and Jake ended up landing on his back between Parker’s legs. Meanwhile, neither stopped playing. What a save!! Max was also blasted in the face with a bottle of water. Max later thanked the fan that made that rude gesture, it turned out Max was hot and the water helped to cool him down. Who knew something so rude could be appreciated? Once the band finished “The Futile” they left the stage and everything got dark. Immediately the crowd began chanting, “ONE MORE SONG!!” There were screams, squeals, whistles and yells from every fan in the venue. Suddenly, parts of the set started lighting up. Once again, the crowd erupted with cheers and to their delight was one Mr. Max Bemis and his acoustic guitar. He dedicated a song, “Crush’d”, from their forthcoming album to his wife. It was a tender lovely performance that ended with Max putting his microphone into the audience to let them finish the song.
As soon as Max finished “Crush’d” his band members joined him on stage for the actual finale. They rocked through “Spores”, but everyone went crazy when they began to play “Admit it!!!” The high energy performance ended with an endless number of stage divers, crowd surfers galore, a kid restrained by security for trying to sing with Max, Max being restrained by security as the crowd tried to pull him into the pit. Once again, since this crowd was obviously full of super fans, Max threw his mic into the crowd as they finished the song. Literally, kids held the microphone in the pit and finished singing “Admit It!!!” It was amazing and definitely one of those special shows that many of these kids will remember for years to come. I am very happy and thankful that Say Anything still chooses to perform “Admit It!!!” as their finale. The irony of the crowd of wannabe hipster kids singing that song never ceases to amuse me. Let’s get a little objective now, shall we? First and foremost – I am so proud of Say Anything and how far they’ve come. Pardon me while I become a jaded, old Bitter Betty for a moment…
I think they’ve jumped the shark a little bit. I’ve listened to the few songs released from their upcoming album. Despite reports that this album is more “mature” and a progression, I find it to be less mature and a bit boring. However, my opinion is solely based on hearing “Hate Everyone”, “Property” and “Eloise”. These new songs don’t speak to me like the songs on “…Is a Real Boy”, “…Was a Real Boy” and “In Defense of the Genre” did. “Mara and Me” has promise as does “Crush’d”, but they lack the grittiness that I’m used to getting from Say Anything. That grittiness has always been packaged in an up tempo, poppy package, but still had more edge lyrically than any other emo band out there. Something is missing from these new songs. I hope I can change my mind once I hear the new album in its entirety, but I’m not counting on it.
The new matchy-matchy clean cut look is cute, but if I wanted to see five or six clean cut guys in matching outfits, well, I’d go see the Backstreet Boys or New Kids on the Block. Can ya feel me? Again, I am so proud of Say Anything, but I liked them less polished and a little more punk. I find this exact moment in Say Anything’s career to be most like Green Day and Blink 182 right as they were about to hit it big. Say Anything would be catapulting to the number one slot on TRL and holding on to it, ya know, if there still was a TRL. Long story short…
This was the best and most heartbreaking Say Anything show I have ever attended. Go see them if you want to attend an extremely tight, entertaining, fun and catchy emo/pop/punk show. If you’re a long time fan, be prepared to be a little bipolar (like Max) and simultaneously love/hate this new super polished incarnation of Say Anything.
Photos of Say Anything in Chicago at the Vic Theater:
Written by: Stacy Young