By now, bands playing full album sets is nothing new, especially in America. In fact, it almost seems to be the norm. At Riot Fest this year, ten bands of its insanely good line-up – including Descendents, The Get Up Kids, Slayer, NOFX and Jane’s Addiction – did just that. And it looks like this trend is not going to go away anytime soon, as tonight shows. Say Anything and Saves The Day have been on the road together since mid-November, the former playing their 1999 second album, Through Being Cool, and the latter their third record, 2004’s …Is a Real Boy, in full. Reggie And The Full Effect – the awkward noise punk troupe headed up by Coalesce/Get Up Kid/My Chemical Romance member James Dewees are also along for the ride, playing their third record, 2003’s Under The Tray… in its entirety. Although a co-headline tour, it’s normally Say Anything headlining, but this is the second of two New York shows, so tonight they play second fiddle to Saves The Day.
In terms of energy, that works well. Say Anything’s set is an intriguing and idiosyncratic affair – much like the album they’re playing – that offers a unique perspective on the pop-punk. Lyrically and musically, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about it, and frontman Max Bemis – now the only founding member left – leads the six-piece band through their unique vision of the genre. Alive With The Glory Of Love is an uplifting surge of positive energy that sends the crowd wild, while Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat is an off-kilter quasi-waltz that’s as catchy as it is odd. Spidersong is a rush of (albeit defeated) energy that gets the whole crowd singing along, but it’s the melancholy majesty of Every Man Has A Molly that best sums up the band and the way they make the weird sound absolutely wonderful. They follow the album with …Was A Real Boy, the EP of demos that was came out with the major label reissue of the record in 2006. Its opener, Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too is both amusing and tragic, and the band look as if they enjoying every second of its salacious, sexual tone. The band finish with Admit It!!!, the last track from …Is A Real Boy, its soaring chorus threatening to implode the venue.
Yet if Say Anything are the potential for carnage, Saves The Day follow through with its reality. From the moment All-Star Me kicks off the album and the set, things go crazy – crushes and crowdsurfers all bleeding out their hearts to the songs of Chris Conley, who, as with Say Anything, is the only original member left in the band. That doesn’t matter though – tonight is not about recapturing what was, but reaffirming what is, and the inherent nostalgia of Shoulder To The Wheel and Rocks Tonic Juice Magic – for which Bemis comes out and sings vocals – are as much about making new memories as living out old ones. Conley hasn’t aged in the slightest, and he and the band play these songs as if he’s back at college where he wrote them – Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots and Third Engine are urgent and impassioned blasts of earnest emotion. As such, it all rushes by quickly, leaving the band 45 minutes to run through songs from the rest of their catalogue. They begin, of course, with At Your Funeral – which is easily reaffirmed as one of the greatest alternative songs ever written – but Freakish and Get Fucked Up are just as compelling. A couple get engaged onstage after Freakish, there’s a wild cover of Hotel California and a shimmering, beautiful version of Nightingale. And as much as these kinds of shows can be about the past, both Say Anything and Saves The Day do a great job of making it about the present, about being here and now, not just there and then. It all adds up to create a strange sense of immediate nostalgia, which burns as much as it inspires.