Concert Reviews

Review: Say Anything at Summit Music Hall, 3/30/12

Eric Gruneisen
Say Anything last night at the Summit Music Hall. More Say Anything Denver photos.

Freddie Mercury be damned. Say Anything frontman Max Bemis's performance last night at the Summit Music Hall resembled more than a tribute to Queen's lead singer; it was a show of peacockery that successfully encapsulated the evening's restless atmosphere. Bemis did the mic-stand-over-the-audience thing. He wrapped the mic cord around his neck. He jumped off the drum riser, all David Lee Roth-like. The man knows how to get his swagger on.

It helps that Say Anything came to the show with a decade's year's worth of singalong pop-punk tunes that more or less demanded audience participation. From the opening chords of "Spidersong," the mostly underage crowd was completely hooked, singing every word like, well, a drunk guy reciting "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the back of a cop car. "Eloise" was another example of the kind of frenetic, mid-2000s emo scene that Say Anything has long played a dominant role in fostering and harnessing.

True, by the time Say Anything walked onstage, the audience's appetite was beyond whetted. This five-hour show had witnessed four similarly bratty, brash acts already. The Front Bottoms began the show while it was still daylight. Naples, Florida's Fake Problems followed. Kevin Devine, and the Goddamn band came next, and played undoubtedly the most nuanced, dynamic performance of the evening. This is not to say Devine upstaged Say Anything, per se. It's only that Devine, a Brooklyn-based singer with an outsized love for Dylan, played songs that allowed for quieter moments that showcased his phenomenally well-honed vocal skills and tasteful guitar theatrics. By contrast, Say Anything was in maximum overdrive from start to finish. And, like a two-hour long orgasm, it might sound great in theory but in practice led to premature exhaustion.

Blame the audience for that. Kids from the front row all the way to the back were singing along, not just with the band's biggest hit ("Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too"), but with damn near everything. There was crowd-surfing. There was fist-pumping. There was much making out between kids with X's on their hands.

What was not there? Things you might imagine would go with emo shows, or shows with songs about disaffected youth, by and for disaffected youth. No belligerent drunkenness or other obvious substance use/abuse (outside of perhaps a symphony performance, this was perhaps the only show in town you could go see without smelling marijuana). No outward signs of teen angst, aside from the sulky scowls on the faces of the occasional high schooler. No black on black wardrobes. This was mostly a party crowd. And Say Anything was the perfect music to get and keep that party going.

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I played a show in a tiny dive bar with opening act Fake Problems in Sarasota, Florida six years ago, and was a tad jealous to see the band last night playing to hundreds of screaming fans.

Random Fact: I thought someone had serious gastrointestinal issues while standing at the bar while waiting to order a drink. I realized only later that the Summit's plumbing in the men's and women's restrooms had just gone all wonky (they were both deemed "out of order" soon after).

By the Way: Say Anything's new album Anarchy, My Dear was released less than three weeks ago. So... go get your hot little hands on it today.

More Say Anything Denver photos.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mark Sanders
Contact: Mark Sanders