It might be hard to appreciate just how important Dashboard Confessional’s music once was without having lived through the somewhat-regrettable-yet-brilliantly-nostalgic emo movement of the mid-2000s. At a time when bleak lyrics and black hoodies defined the zeitgeist, the band both spoke to, and for, a generation of listeners who felt marginalised and misunderstood. While D’Marquee at Downtown East was populated by punters now well into their late 20s to early 30s, audience members were offered the chance to momentarily inhabit the hearts of their former adolescent selves with Dashboard Confessional’s first-ever full band appearance in Singapore.
Opening with “Vindicated” (the Spider-Man 2 song, for the uninitiated), the room erupted into a chorus of screams and elated outbursts, marking the first of many songs that would see hundreds of voices overwhelm frontman Chris Carrabba and his four-piece band. From the moment the dashing, seemingly ageless frontman belted out the lines, “Vindicated/I am selfish, I am wrong/I am right, I swear I’m right/Swear I knew it all along,” listeners were transported back to memories of building personalised Myspace profiles and sharing more than one would care to admit on LiveJournal blog posts – the unashamed vulnerability of being young.
Taking listeners through a catalogue of heart-on-sleeve ‘confessionals’ from the band’s early years, from 2000’s The Swiss Army Romance to 2006’s Dusk and Summer, Singapore’s Dashboard fans finally got their first taste of the depth and dynamic of songs like “The Sharp Hint of New Tears” to “Saints and Sailors” when performed live with a full band. Carrabba was as visibly excited as the crowd he was playing to, made evident by his spinning, jumping and aggressive guitar work that put him in a more animated space than his former appearances as a lone singer-songwriter.
To say that a Dashboard show is mere nostalgia would be an injustice, as the band had much more to offer than renditions of their former glory. Transforming “Remember To Breathe” into a swelling, atmospheric breather from the onslaught of guitar-driven rock, Carrabba and co. also took the opportunity to pay tribute to musical muses both old and new, creeping into Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” before performing a faithful cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.
Carrabba’s first time back in Singapore since 2013 also presented an opportunity to showcase new songs that have been in the works, a delight for listeners who have been waiting for new material since 2009’s Alter The Ending. Letting listeners in on his induction into the alternative music scene in the social politics-focused “We Fight”, the frontman took things a step further by bringing interactivity to new material. While alone on stage for an acoustic intermission that immediately heightened the intimacy, Carrabba captured the crowd’s singalongs to the new song “Heart Beat Here”, promising that they’ll be heard once the song is committed to tape.
Speaking with us in an insightful interview ahead of the performance, Carrabba noted that, “There are songs that I think the audience’s interpretation is, in fact, more correct than my idea of what it was. Then, I almost get to be the listener.” There were plenty of these moments, where we witnessed the musician stopping his own voice to hear those of the audience, each shaped by different experiences that forever bind song and memory. Perhaps this was nowhere more apparent than during fan favourites “Screaming Infidelities” and “Stolen”, where Carrabba was matched note-for-note by audience members, who may have uttered the lyrics more times than the writer himself.
Of course, an encore was demanded from the band, having not yet performed their breakout song, “Hands Down”, before walking off stage and quickly returning to a manic crowd. While clearly performing with passion, Carrabba was seemingly outmatched by the passion in those standing before him, shouting every word with gusto and almost drowning the frontman out. Watch the video below to get a glimpse of the magic that took place.
Having previously told us that the band’s interpretation of each song is influenced by the audience on any particular night, the smiles that Carrabba simply couldn’t hide suggested that he may have even found something new to appreciate in his time-honoured catalogue. While we still wait with bated breath for a new Dashboard album whose shape and message have yet to be determined, what we can say with certainty is that we hope it packs the same punch as Carrabba’s energetic, honest performances within the live band context.