The talent-packed autumn package of Say Anything, Motion City Soundtrack, Saves the Day, and A Great Big Pile of Leaves arrived in Sayreville, New Jersey, on a cool November evening. Due to Friday night traffic on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, I regrettably missed openers A Great Big Pile of Leaves, but I did manage to arrive at the packed Starland Ballroom in time for locals Saves the Day.
In front of an eager hometown crowd, Saves the Day began with In Reverie leadoff “Anywhere With You” just after 7:30PM. Fan-favorite “Firefly” went next, much of the crowd singing along to frontman Chris Conley’s high-pitched vocals. The invigorating “Shoulder to the Wheel” followed, with the audience dancing along to the decade-old Through Being Cool cut. “1984″ — the first of three brand new songs played this evening — sounded great, building excitement for the band’s next full-length, Daybreak.
“Let It All Go” and “Z”, the other Daybreak songs tossed in the setlist, were also impressive. It’s been some time since Saves the Day has released a studio album, but if these songs are any indication, the wait will be worth it. Of course, the band’s older songs stand up well: 2001′s Stay What You Are contributed many of the night’s highlights, including “Cars and Calories” and “Freakish”.
The New Jersey quartet sounded great through their forty-five minute set, only stumbling when Say Anything frontman Max Bemis jumped on stage to butcher vocals on the penultimate “You Vandal”. Thankfully, though, Saves the Day recovered with a solid performance of perhaps their most well-known song, “At Your Funeral”. Much of the sold-out crowd knew every word: “And at your funeral I will sing the requiem / I’d offer you my hand, it would hurt too much to watch you die.”
Anywhere With You
Shoulder To The Wheel
Cars and Calories
Let It All Go
Can’t Stay The Same
At Your Funeral
Motion City Soundtrack began with a somewhat sloppy performance of “The Weakends”, frontman Justin Pierre sounding uncharacteristically weak in his vocal delivery. “Everything is Alright” similarly sounded off, and Motion City Soundtrack’s less-than-stellar performance remained a mystery until Pierre attempted to speak into the microphone, revealing his barely audible, scratchy voice — a side effect of a lingering cold. Bassist Matt Taylor stepped up to provide additional vocals throughout the evening, though, and somehow Motion City Soundtrack managed to perform a respectable sixteen-song setlist.
Of course, without Pierre at full strength Motion City Soundtrack’s live show greatly suffered. The once-lively frontman was out of character, barely engaging in his normal banter, and the five-piece raced through their set, spending just fifty minutes on stage. The band’s instrumentals, however, were tighter than ever, and song selection was top notch with more than one-third of the set drawing from My Dinosaur Life, one of 2010′s best records: “Worker Bee”, lead by the packed Starland Ballroom singing the tune’s introductory verse, was absolutely fantastic. “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” received a slight change, with gang vocals replacing the song’s kazoo-lead chorus.
“Time Turned Fragile” and “Better Open the Door”, two lesser-seen 2005 cuts, were nice, unexpected additions to the evening. Though the crowd was composed largely of Say Anything fans, most of the building sang along to songs like “LG Fuad” and and “My Favorite Accident”, and of course, “The Future Freaks Me Out”, which closed out the Minneapolis quintet’s time on stage.
Everything Is Alright
Better Open The Door
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need A Little Help)
My Favorite Accident
This Is For Real
Time Turned Fragile
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
The Future Freaks Me Out
Even with a sick frontman, Motion City Soundtrack delivered a solid performance backed by top-tier song selection. New songs like “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” and “Pulp Fiction” are some of the band’s best live cuts, and it’s hard to complain about the inclusion of the band’s older staples — like “The Future Freaks Me Out” or “Everything is Alright” — when that material is so exciting in a live environment. The evening was wonderful; after excellent performances by Motion City Soundtrack and Saves the Day, there was no need to stick around for an uninteresting set from the subpar Say Anything.