by Jacob DeSmit
It’s a stretch to say that Say Anything, a five-piece rock band from Los Angeles, has been “together” for the last 13 years. Since its initial formation, the band has a long list of ex-members that have revolved around front man Max Bemis. Though Bemis is the only current member to have been around for the group’s earliest days, when the band went by “Sayanything” and sounded more punk than pop, he radiated enough energy on the House of Blues stage last night to make up for any lack of band chemistry and create an electric atmosphere in the packed venue.
The band’s latest stop in Cleveland was part of its “Rarities and More” tour, so fans of Say Anything’s oldest music were treated to songs from some of the band’s earliest records, like Baseball: An Album by Sayanything and the Menorah/Majora EP. Entering the show stage left after his band mates had already started the opening number, Bemis stood at the head of the stage with hands raised and eyes closed as he soaked in the massive audience response. His boundless energy presented itself in most all of the 16 songs the band performed, like “Crush’d” and “The Futile,” the latter of which was the first — though far from last — song to have most of the audience singing along at the top of its collective lungs. After closing out its set with fan-favorite “Alive With the Glory of Love,” Bemis returned alone to kick off the encore acoustically with “A Boston Peace.” Bemis hopped off stage at the end of Say Anything’s last song, “A Walk Through Hell,” to mingle with his adoring fans, but not before making each person pinky swear that they’d be back for the band’s next stop. Judging from everyone’s enthusiasm for the charismatic singer and his band throughout the night, it’s likely a promise that most in attendance will keep.
Maybe it was because the band is mostly comprised of siblings, but pop quintet Eisley — one of two openers — seemed particularly in-sync throughout its 35-minute, 10-song set. The band’s co-fronting ladies shined in songs like “All Around Me” and “Save My Soul,” and the latter of the two songs featured a sweet three-part harmony that showcased each woman’s crystal-clear voice. Similarly sweet was when Sherri DuPree-Bemis dedicated “Deep Space,” the title track from Eisley’s latest EP, to her husband in Say Anything. Despite the band members’ humble attitudes, the rocking music they made kept the near-capacity crowd pumped as they anxiously awaited the headlining act to take the stage.
The 25-minute, six-song opening set by experimental quintet HRVRD featured a majority of the songs from the band’s latest release, From the Bird’s Cage. Singer Jesse Clasen has a stage presence similar to Bemis; he danced throughout songs like “We Never Shut Up About You” but didn’t miss a beat in contributing to the group’s complex sound with his impressive vocal range. As the band concluded with “Parts and Labor,” Classen donned a rubber mask that made him look like Zeus if the deity were a hobo, and jumped into the pit to get weird with those on floor level.