Beloved emo rock icons Say Anything emerged from hiatus last Friday for their first show in nearly five years. Frontman Max Bemis and the refreshed lineup dug in for a sold-out, four night run at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom with a line of fans camped out in the rain on Delancey Street waiting for doors to open. Anticipation was high, driven by the release of “Psyche!” earlier in the day, the band’s first new music since their no longer 2019 farewell album, Oliver Appropriate.
Say Anything has always featured a revolving door of musicians surrounding founding members Max Bemis and drummer Coby Linder. Linder himself departed the band after 2012’s Anarchy, My Dear, now returning to the group in the post-hiatus era. During a break in the show, Bemis told the audience that not only was Linder his favorite drummer, but that Say Anything only felt complete with him behind the kit. The chemistry between the two felt like it never missed a beat, helping keep the rest of the group in groove as they worked out some minor first show kinks. A ravenous crowd kept the band on their toes, providing a 500-voice backing chorus to every song played.
Say Anything’s revamped live lineup features old friends and new additions. Joining founding members Max Bemis and Coby Linder are former bandmates Parker Case (keyboards) and Alex Kent (bass) with new additions Brian Warren on guitar (from Weatherbox) and Fred Mascherino on guitar and effects (from Taking Back Sunday). Fans who came out to Bowery Ballroom early were treated to an opening set from Mascherino’s solo project The Color Fred.
When Bemis and crew came on stage, they were met with a thunderous reception from the Bowery crowd. The sextet spread out across the stage, plugging in and taking a deep breath as a relentless crowd waited for those opening notes. After a quiet “Are you ready?” from Bemis, the band dropped right into “John McClane,” the opening track from 2014’s Hebrews. The crowd erupted and sang every word of the stream of consciousness song back to Bemis, in awe of the moment after such a long absence. Say Anything continued on with the set, playing “Belt” and “Woe” from their seminal sophomore album …Is A Real Boy.
After quickly resolving some minor technical issues and making on-the-fly changes to the printed setlist, Say Anything had fully put the 5 year hiatus behind them and were in fine form. Throughout the show, Bemis continuously thanked the audience for their devotion throughout the years. One fan shouted from the back of the room, “You guys saved my life!”; a statement that really drew Bemis’ attention. He told the audience that there were times in his career where he could not comprehend what that even meant, only learning later on that the music they were making was not only vitalizing their fans, but also himself. After the first couple of songs, Bemis said into the mic, “Oh God, I needed this,” a sentiment that was indeed shared by everyone in the room.
Halfway through the show, Bemis teased the crowd by telling them they were about to play a song that had not seen the live stage for several years even before the hiatus. It only took two notes for the audience to know where they were headed, and they completely overshadowed Bemis’ own vocals as they shouted every single word to the infectiously fun “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too.” Mascherino was laughing to himself with pure joy while adding slinky guitars to the track; a moment of pure bliss for everyone at Bowery Ballroom. The boys followed up the fun sing along with the live debut of their brand new song “Psyche!” before returning to the early days with “The Church Channel” and “Yellow Cat (slash) Red Cat.”
During the encore, Bemis performed “Cemetery” as an acoustic duet with his wife, Sherri DuPree. The moment was one of the many reminders throughout the night that this was all about family and friendship. For the entire show, Bemis and DuPree’s children were on the steps on the side of the Bowery Ballroom stage, dancing along to the music and enjoying seeing their dad perform his craft, many of them for the first time. Bemis implored the audience to pour everything they can into the people that matter in their lives, promising them it will only bring much needed happiness to their days. This new era of Say Anything is clearly meant for something bigger than records, shows, or revenue. The members of the band as well as everyone who made it to the four night run at Bowery Ballroom were reincarnated with a new sense of joy from these shows.
The future is bright for Say Anything, regardless of where we go from here. There is a new single, but so far no news of a new LP. Fresh off their reemergence at Bowery Ballroom, the group was supposed to play the now cancelled Bamboozle festival but will now have to wait until August when they support The Front Bottoms at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. Later on in October, Say Anything will play a hometown residency with three nights at The Regent in Los Angeles followed by an appearance at the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas. If I was a betting man, I would say they draw one of the largest crowds of the day in Vegas.