Dashboard Confessional, Jack’s Mannequin, Relient K @ Prince Bandroom, 29/02/12 Review: Giselle Nguyen
Tonight was about the audience just as much as it was about those performing on stage, with epic singalongs breaking out all evening for the three acts playing to a loved-up, sold-out Prince.
Pop punkers Relient K are one of the most downright positive bands on the planet, playing their upbeat and sunny tunes to brighten up a night that was plagued with dreary Melbourne weather. It’s impossible to feel down when music this bright is visibly cheering everyone around you up, and almost 15 years into being together as a band, these Ohio natives are still doing it right.
The last time Andrew McMahon toured it was in a solo capacity, showcasing songs from across his career, during which he’s performed in several guises. Tonight was all about Jack’s Mannequin, his project that started in 2004 and has blossomed since. Opening with a passionate “The Mixed Tape”, the next 45 minutes saw McMahon and his bandmates give it their all, playing several songs from their latest album, People and Things, but mostly dipping into the past, much to the audible delight of the crowd. He’s a spirited frontman, banging on the piano as he sang with vigour, and also displayed a great sense of humour as he playfully bantered with the audience.
“The Resolution” was, as always, a spectacularly inspiring stand-out as the cancer survivor sang, “I’m alive, and I don’t need a witness to know that I survived.” Bandmate Bobby Anderson provided seamless backing vocals, as did punters, who sang along to McMahon’s every word.
“Swim” was a more subdued number, but it was during big cuts like “Bruised” that the mood in the room really hit its stride. McMahon announced that he was going to close with a “love song” that turned out to be debut album Everything In Transit’s “MFEO: Made For Each Other/You Can Breathe” – an unexpected but stunning choice, as his piano lines slowly built up to a wonderful climax.
Jack’s Mannequin is the kind of band that makes your cheeks hurt from smiling when you watch them; there was just so much love emanating from every second of their set tonight, both on and off stage.
Like McMahon, Chris Carrabba has gone through a number of musical changes over the years. His pet project, Dashboard Confessional, started off as a solo acoustic venture and eventually branched out to include a full band.
What lies at the heart of the Dashboard name, though, will always be Carrabba, an acoustic guitar and heart-on-sleeve lyrics, and that’s exactly how he played tonight. The set felt like a meeting with an old friend, as the crowd sang so loudly to each and every song that Carrabba was sometimes drowned out and had to ask for his vocals to be turned up. Not that he minded, though – “you sound so f**king good,” he grinned during his first song, “Don’t Wait”, as the audience crooned in accompaniment.
Carrabba seemed genuinely happy to be there, promising to perform until he got kicked off the stage and gladly taking audience requests. Dashboard Confessional’s songs are very intimate, but somehow it just felt right to be singing along with hundreds and hundreds of strangers.
Though it was just him and a guitar, Carrabba managed to be utterly arresting using solely his voice, which went from quiet introspection to intense passion, especially in “As Lovers Go” and “Tall Green Grass”, a Corey Branan cover which saw Carrabba’s usual nasally whine transform into a hard-hitting country twang as he fiercely played the guitar. Detractors take note – this guy can actually sing, no matter what genre it may be.
Despite thinking that no one in the crowd would know “Belle of the Boulevard”, Carrabba was pleasantly shocked to find the whole room singing along, jokingly lambasting himself and his band for not touring that album, After The Ending, in Australia. He often allowed the crowd to carry the song, like in “Stolen”, where the chorus was a sea of random voices as Carrabba stood back, smiling to himself.
The night’s biggest singalong came with fan favourite “Hands Down”, which Carrabba introduced as being about “the best day I’ve ever had”. The song ended with a repeated “I knew that you meant it”, to the point where neither performer nor crowd knew when to stop. It felt magical to be a part of that moment, and more so when Carrabba let his guard down further, changing the lyrics to “I still know that you meant it.”
When Carrabba came back on stage it was with Relient K and Jack’s Mannequin for a collaborative encore, kicking off with an unexpected cover of Silverchair’s “Straight Lines”. They then ripped out Weezer’s “El Scorcho” – despite the glaringly obvious disparity between musical styles, it was surprisingly excellent and McMahon singing back-up was a particular highlight.
It was Dashboard’s 2004 hit “Vindicated” that closed the evening, and with hands flailing in the air and voices shouting themselves hoarse, it was in high spirits that the audience filed out back into the rainy night.