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Story and Photos By Andrea Dawn GoforthThe weather was perfectly pleasant as a huge lined formed outside of the House of Blues in Chicago Tuesday night to see America's favorite whiner, Chris Carrabba, and his band Dashboard Confessional. I have to admit I've only owned one Dashboard album that I bought in high school, during the massive rise of songs like "Hands Down" and "Screaming Infidelities." I walked into the show expecting to enjoy myself, but not be blown away.
So, here's something you won't hear me often say: I was wrong.
Acoustic opening act, Cory Branan, gave a wild but humorous performance and lead into second opener Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, a mellow rock group with tight harmonies and a pocket groove sound. But the crowd really packed in when the quilted curtains of the HoB stage closed to prepare for Dashboard's set.
10 minutes later, the curtains re-opened to Chris Carrabba center stage, strumming the chords to "The Brilliant Dance" from his 2001 release The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. The cracked finish of his Gibson J-45 shone in the spotlight as he started the show solo. Followed up by "Saints and Sailors" and "Good Fight," lead guitarist John Lefler took to an old upright piano set at the back of the stage, and the rest of the band filed in. Carrabba himself ditched his guitar for the upright on three or four songs throughout the night.
If you've ever been to a Dashboard show then you know something I did not: Dashboard fans know every single word to every single song the band has ever written, and they belt them out the entire show. Frequently Carrabba would step away from his mic and to walk the edge of the stage, encouraging the sing-a-long atmosphere and connecting with his audience. Even though I had labeled Carrabba as a professional whiner, his undeniable charm and raw, uninhibited performance was captivating. I found myself joining the chorus of crowd singers when the band cut out on the single "Vindicated" to let the audience belt the lyrics "so let me slip away!"
Being emotional doesn't make a good band, of course, but musically Dashboard was in top form that night. Coming off of a week-long break in their tour, Carrabba didn't drop a single note, and the band was effortlessly tight. Maybe you're too tough to fall for Dashboard's emo sensitivity, but after seeing this show, there is no denying that this is a band that writes damn good songs not to be written off.
Dashboard's new album Alter the Ending is out now, and it looks like I'll be sticking my foot in my mouth, and going out to get a copy.
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