show review

Alkaline Trio Packs Cleveland's House of Blues

Show: May 28, 2013
Lisa Sanchez

Selling out the House of Blues in Cleveland is not always an easy task. It seems reserved for big-brand MTV names and aging rock legends. Apparently Alkaline Trio may be a bit of both considering they played to a full House of Blues on May 28th. The tour comes shortly after the band's 9th study release "My Shame is True" (see our review) and featured fellow rock heavy weights Bayside as well as Minneapolis punk quartet Off With Their Heads.

Off With Their Heads kicked off the evening with a ballsy array of punk songs for the masses. I rather enjoyed their hard hitting punk hooks and snarling rebel anthems. Lead singer Ryan Young would even throw out the occasional song introduction, "I'm a very unhappy person!" he yelled as the band began another song. The bullish singer even specifically dedicated a song to "...people who go to shows at Now That's Class!" I'm willing to bet Off With Their Heads has played a show or two there. The music was catchy and the lyrics made me smile in a simple "Fuck you if you don't like me" sort of way.

Unfortunately, the Cleveland crowd at large did not appear to share my sentiments. I could spot only two guys who were giving the band the raucous enjoyment they tried to inspire. After asking around, it seems people were just there for the bigger name bands, although some of the crowd got a good first impression, "They're one of the best openers I've ever seen!" said Lidia, 22 who was in the standing audience when the band was playing. Off With Their Heads had stiff competition for audience participation, a battle they unfortunately lost – but not for lack of talent.
Next up were the rousing Bayside. Admittedly, I hadn't listened to this band since I was sixteen, but they got me good with a song I actually remembered "Devotion and Desire". After that I got lost in a tide of nondescript "I'm so lonely" songs from the band. However, Bayside was definitely the crowd favorite of the openers if you're judging by the number of crowd surfers.

By looking at the crowd I'd guess that a fair amount of the sold out crowd was actually only there for Bayside, which of course struck me as funny because I was totally under the impression that these guys stopped existing when I stopped listening to them. I remain pleasantly surprised, but still surprised. Lead singer Anthony Raneri seemed earnestly grateful to be opening the show, "It's been an honor to share the stage with those guys [Alkaline Trio]". After their set it was easy to find fans to sing the bands praises, "I don't think they can do bad." said Tabitha, 21, who's seen the band six times. They certainly must be doing something right.
Finally, the big show, the grand finale, no surprise considering everyone knows who the headliner is...Alkaline Trio! Although the tour is for their recent "My Shame is True", they only played a few songs from the new album. They gave stage time to their new single "I Wanna Be a Warhol", "She Lied to the FBI", and "The Temptation of St. Anthony", which Matt Skiba introduced by asking: "Does anyone out there like art? You know music is an art. This song is about a painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony'...this is actually about my divorce". The band always has a playful, conversational tone with the audience which is evident with Skiba's openness. The other songs were a culmination of hits from past albums including the essential sing along favorites as "This Could Be Love" and "Olde English".

At every Alkaline Trio show I've ever been to it always seems like the whole crowd is singing along to every. single. fucking. song. Sometimes this is awful, because I paid money to see the band perform, not to hear the 14 year old kid whose voice hasn't properly changed yet wail in my ear. This was a little different. Half of the time, half of the crowd sung half of the songs. This has to be due to Alkaline Trio's extensive seventeen year career and the varying fans they've acquired. Whether it was new stuff or old stuff, somebody was singing. Everyone else was flying through the air or pushing each other into one bruised mess. It was the most fun I've had at an Alkaline Trio show in a long time just because of the crowd participation. I'm glad you know the words to the songs, but you can sing at home. I'm not sure it's every day you can fly through the air to meet the quizzical gaze of a famous musician.

Considering all of this, for the band’s three song encore I couldn't stop smiling when every crowd member sang along with "Radio" and Dan Andriano motioned for the masses to sing. It was a great moment to see Alkaline Trio enjoy their own fans singing a song they had performed for over a decade. Their stage presence and demeanor is always endearing, and the way Skiba and Andriano interact makes them seem, dare I say it, like normal human beings - not unreachable musicians. They're realistic and responsive to the crowd, like when Skiba stopped the encore at one point to check on a fight that broke out in. The set list they composed reached all generations of fans, new and old. The band knows their fans, and knows that some of them are crotchety "play the old stuff" crooners while others weren't born when the old stuff was around.

I need to say this most recent show makes the ninth time I've seen Alkaline Trio and I've been listening to them for half of my life (don't do the math on that if you respect my girlish secrecy) and it's great to see the band keeping itself fresh - both with music and performance. The crowd was into the show, the set list was solid, the encore was even better, and Matt Skiba, Dan Andriano, and Derek Grant brought their charming personalities to the forefront. Overall, a fellow concert-goer summed it up best for me: "It was hot, sexy, the guards got in a fight; it was the best!" said Hunter, 17 who had seen the band three times. As a self declared Alkaline Trio veteran, I'm inclined to agree with a simple "Hell Yes".