Say Anything has always been synonymous with angst, high energy, and unconventional themes. Their fast-paced, passion driven music has been a staple part of most American teenagers’ lives. Even after 12 years in the business, the band does not disappoint.
At the Paramount Theater in Huntington, NY on October 21, opening quartet Tallhart sang, “We dance in circles,/it’s Saturday night/We dance in circles now” off their track, “Wolves.” The lyrics set the scene for the night to come – when teens and adolescents gathered for a night of quintessential teenage entertainment.
Following Tallhart was The Sidekicks, a band whose long hair and forceful songs were a more modern take on 90s grunge music. The audience really got into “The Whale and Jonah,” of which singer Steve Ciolek said, “this is a song about a couple in a crippling relationship.”
The final opener, Murder By Death, had a different sound than the other bands the audience saw that night; their lineup includes an electric cellist and a keyboardist who doubles as an accordion-player. But the crowd was enthusiastic nonetheless, cheering and swaying, and laughing along when a mysterious man in a tuxedo and white bodysuit made an appearance on stage. Lead singer Adam Turla joked, “no one knows who he is or where he comes from.” Cellist Sarah Balliet alternated between playing the instrument with a bow and strumming at it with her fingers, impressing the audience with the band’s unique sound.
A little after 10pm, Say Anything was ready to stop keeping the concertgoers waiting. They burst onto the dim stage and lit it up with their opener, “The Writhing South” from most recent album, “Anarchy, My Dear.” Lead singer Max Bemis pointed the mic towards the audience and they sang, “hey, hey, hey, hey come pollinate me.”
The crowd danced in time with the throbbing rhythm of Cody Linder’s drumming as the band continued into “Say Anything.” Bemis strutted around the stage, moving to the front as he declared, “Long Island we’re gonna do it again tonight!”
The band then went into their track, “Say Anything” and Bemis bounced around the stage proclaiming, “anything for you” with passionate desperation. As the first few notes of the famed “Alive With the Glory of Love” rolled in, the audience loudly cheered and began those iconic first words, “when I watch you/wanna do you/right where your standing,” mimicking Bemis’ exaggerated pronunciation of each syllable. Bemis pumped his fist to the audience with each repetition of the word, “love,” and the teens began crowd surfing in enthusiasm. One teenage girl high-fived a crowd surfer who was being lead away from the area by security guards in neon yellow shirts.
With the energy in full force after that performance, Bemis took the opportunity to show appreciation to the fans. “Up to this point for like the past five or six years I’ve been using these in ear systems so I could hear myself better when I play, but [recently] I haven’t even been using them. I just wanna hear you guys […] cuz it’s just so loud and beautiful.”
While performing “That is Why” off of their 2007 album “In Defense of the Genre,” Bemis theatrically walked around the stage, extended his arm to the audience and bringing it back in to express his emotions. He yelled to the audience, “you’ll never ever in a goddamn millennium…” and they finished, “be my girl.”
In between songs Bemis announced, “I wanna say this is the best tour we’ve ever done, for us,” getting the audience riled up once again. The band played through “Do Better” and then “Shiksa,” during which Bemis’ wife, Sherri, appeared on stage to sing backup vocals, before playing “Mara and Me.” Parker Case took short pauses from playing to rock out on stage, dancing to the music before returning to the keys. Guitarists Jake and Jeff Turner put their all into their strumming and kept the energy levels high.
“You guys might know this one,” Bemis said sarcastically when he introduced, “Wow I Can Get Sexual, Too.” The crowd went wild, crowd surfing, dancing, and shouting the unrefined clever lyrics. Bemis put his hand on his hip, bending towards the audience as he sang the lyrics with feverish passion. The music cut out altogether and the audience yelled, “sick dark world!” as loud as they possible could, some couples grinding against each other all throughout the song.
Bemis looks like he is truly enjoying himself when performing, as if he is living out every high school boys’ rockstar fantasy and loving every minute of it. Its’ nice to know that the fame doesn’t get to his head, as he proved when he explained, “When we play a venue of this size, we usually for some reason, we end up walking through […] before anyone gets here. […] It doesn’t matter how well we’ve done in the past, how well we continue to do. For some reason my first thought: ‘Jesus this is big. Are we really gonna [fill this?}’ But, apparently you guys are interested in seeing us.”
The band played through “Night’s Song,” “Hate Everyone,” and “Baby Girl I’m a Blur.” Bemis got the audience involved by frequently pointing the mic towards them so they could scream along with him. The mood became mellow as the ending “la da das” of “Woe” were sung by the audience as they swayed with each other.
Adam Siska’s bass guitar came back strong during the next song, “People Like You Are Why People Like Me Exist.” Bemis sneered the lyrics, demonstrating why the band is linked to adjectives like “angry,” “angsty,” and “defiant.” During “Overbiter,” Sherri came on stage again , and Bemis looked at her with loving and delighted eyes as she melodically sang, “say you will right now.” She rubbed her stomach dramatically and Bemis announced that they are expecting. He kissed her cheek before she ran off stage again.
“Walk Through Hell” and “Burn a Miracle” were the last two songs of the set, and then the guys of Say Anything dropped their instruments and walked off stage. “One more song! One more song!” was all that could be heard, and within a few minutes, the band walked back onto a blacklit stage and finished with “Belt” and “The Stephen Hawking.” Two friends of the band ran out from backstage and dove into the audience during the encore, and another friend came out to sing backup vocals.
Bemis shouted, “Thank you for your continuous support!” to the cheering crowd, and then, in typical humor, “If it’s not too much to ask, if we’re playing New York City then fucking come to that too.”
At the end of the hard rocking “The Stephen Hawking,” the music returned to mellow and Bemis kneeled on the floor whispering, “I can’t let this go.” The lights dimmed and the room got quiet before he screamed, “LET THIS GO,” before the stage went black and the band walked off.
Photos by Jeanne Donegan