"Alright, I'm Chris. It's nice to see you guys. You wanna sing one?"
Those were the opening words of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba last night -- a coyly posed question he surely knew the answer to. A sold-out crowd had packed West Hollywood's Troubadour to catch the first stop of his band's joint acoustic tour with fellow earnest emoters New Found Glory. And with predictable abandon, the audience sung the whole of Carrabba's first song, "Ghost Of A Good Thing," with the beloved emo artist essentially playing back-up at his own show.
(See a photo gallery of the show here.)
Crowd participation is a notorious staple of Dashboard concerts, and this night was no exception. Accompanied by co-guitarist John Lefler, Carraba led his fans in clap-alongs, sing-alongs, shout-alongs and even shake-alongs, as Lefler at one point distributed hundreds of bead-filled balls amongst those packed into the venue. Better yet, Carraba had a second request of his willing participants.
"We're not gonna work from a set list tonight, so if there's something you want to hear, just shout it out." The response was deafening. They wanted to hear it all, and, well, they got a lot of it: no fewer than 20 songs, including the whole of 2001's excellent So Impossible EP, spread out over two intimate hours.
Armed with boyish good looks, a piano and a rotating lineup of acoustic guitars, the Dashboard duo served up a career-spanning set of taut emotions and elastic tempos. Carrabba and Lefler traveled back to 2000's The Swiss Army Romance with ease, channeling the room's nostalgia into a heartfelt rendering of "Screaming Infidelities." At the other end, the spiritual queries of "Get Me Right," from the just-released Alter The Ending, sounded all the more urgent set to fevered strumming.
Lefler's own "Up My Sleeve" and a lithe cover of Ingrid Michaelson's "Breakable" (not to mention a momentary instrumental dip into "Over The Rainbow") acted as mid-set palate cleansers before Dashboard launched into a series of fan favorites that sent the attendees into full swoon: The spacious, moving "Remember To Breathe," the vibrato-fied epic "Vindicated" and ebullient closer "Hands Down." Each of which received a throat-straining seal of approval from the audience -- of course.
Earlier in the night, openers New Found Glory ran through a well-received but sloppy set. The Floridian pop-punk band cut an, um, impressive figure when it tookthe stage -- five men in tattoos and tuxedo T-shirts, ready to tearthrough their "unplugged" debut. Guitarist Chad Gilbert introduced thegroup as "Nervous Found Glory" in jest, but when "Truth Of My Youth"kicked things off, it was clear that real jitters had set in, as singerJordan Pundik immediately hit some sour notes.
By way of an excuse, a family emergency had kept Pundik out ofrehearsals, but his roughness got to the group all the same. At onepoint Gilbert quipped, "Does anyone else want to sing for our band?" Hesaid it with a laugh, but a moment later, scolded Pundik for notmanning his tambourine.
Despite the lead singer's problems, New FoundGlory delivered a handful of highlights, including a cover of BenFolds' "Brick," a darker version of "47" (from this year's Not Without A Fight), and a rollicking take on "The Christmas Song."
In the end, both sets added up to a great night for L.A. music fans.
"Ghost Of A Good Thing"
"The Swiss Army Romance"
"The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most"
"For You To Notice"
"Get Me Right"
"Bend And Not Break"
"Up My Sleeve" (from John Lefler's Better By Design)
"Breakable" (Ingrid Michaelson cover)
Interlude: "Over The Rainbow" (Judy Garland cover)
"Carry This Picture"
"Belle Of The Boulevard"
"Remember To Breathe"
"The Good Fight"
"Where There's Gold"
"The Best Deceptions"
New Found Glory
"Truth Of My Youth"
"Something I Call Personality"
"It's Not Your Fault"
"The Story So Far"
"Tell All My Friends I'm Dead"
"I Don't Wanna Know"
"My Friends Over You" / "Brick" (Ben Folds Five cover)
"Too Good To Be"
"Hit Or Miss"
"The Christmas Song"