NEW YORK — Don't cry for Chris Carrabba — sure, the Dashboard Confessional singer may have suffered a broken heart (or two), but post-punk's sensitive poster boy is clearly on the mend and ready for bigger action. Where he might have once shied away from singing some of his vocals out of stage fright, he now lets the crowd take over — as he did Thursday at his Roseland Ballroom tour stop — as part of a coy quid pro quo.
Carrabba spent just as much time in front of the mic as away from it. "Get it out of your system," he coaxed the fans. That didn't stop him from singing as well, despite his vocals being drowned by the room's response. But when he did take back the lead, it was with a newfound confidence that he was finally comfortable in (and in fact seemed to crave) the spotlight — his screams were more controlled, his staccato more pinpoint, his falsetto more pure.
He even teased the audience, changing lyrics at the end of fan favorite "Remember to Breathe" so that those chiming in were caught a little off guard. Still, Carrabba complimented them on a job well done, and thanked them incessantly throughout the set — for listening, for sharing music via the Net or mixtapes, for buying T-shirts that paid his rent, and above all, he said, for "allowing my music to grow and change."
While at times the music was spare, with just Carrabba strumming an acoustic guitar, the bulk of the show went in the harder direction of A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, material from which comprised a good half of the hour-long set. With the band situated to the side of the stage, Carrabba gave a grand entrance to the strains of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" — a dose of irony, perhaps, but fitting for an emo boy who has an equal desire to thrash and wail. The trick is to retain the insecurity and uncertainty that endears him to a largely female fanbase (because he feels so much!) while integrating his new sense of assurance. Because, after all, confidence can be sexy, too.
Carrabba captured the crowd most when he was caught between those two extremes. He revealed his vulnerability in the plaintive Dumpster song "Ghost of a Good Thing," embraced frailty in "If You Can't Leave It Be, Might As Well Make It Bleed" and turned hurt into strength during the encores of the more upbeat and hopeful "Hey Girl" and "Hands Down," the only songs where his bolder singing self took a backseat to guitar-god poses. Even "Hey Girl" seemed more cocksure, the spiky retro riff at the top proving to be in its live rendition a closer cousin to Def Leppard's "Photograph," even as it morphed out of a brief few bars of the band's take on the Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)."
"The first time I played here, people looked at me like I was sacrificing chickens onstage," Carrabba said to the crowd. "But that's fun, too. To each his own."
The Dashboard Confessional tour continues through October 8 in Chicago.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.