More than a dash of raw emotion from Confessional

Chris Carrabba at the Paradise on Saturday night. Chris Carrabba at the Paradise on Saturday night. (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)
By Luke O’Neil
Globe Correspondent / December 14, 2010

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You may have noticed emo music fans walking around with a little extra mope in their step lately. Cut them some slack. A spate of shows from venerable acts — including the Get Up Kids’ Matt Pryor last week, and Weezer, who will perform their seminal “Pinkerton’’ album on Wednesday — is probably opening up a lot of long-lost musical and romantic wounds.

On Saturday night, perhaps the platonic ideal of the oft-maligned genre, Chris Carrabba, a.k.a. Dashboard Confessional, put heart to tattooed sleeve at the Paradise for an all-ages solo acoustic performance. Carrabba is also currently performing a classic album of his own in its entirety. To mark the 10th anniversary of the release of his debut, “The Swiss Army Romance,’’ he wanted to recapture that early magic, performing solo at smaller venues, and stripping his arrangements, and his throat, bare.

While it may have been his intention to make the large venues he plays now smaller by jumping in the nostalgia time machine, the format here actually had the opposite effect. Dashboard shows are notoriously driven, or rather monopolized by crowd participation, but microphones laid out across the stage to pick up the audience’s collective singing gave the proceedings the thundering singalong feel of an arena show. That would prove to be a big aid for the still boyish, slickly coiffed, and endearingly polite Carrabba, who struggled occasionally to reach the screaming high notes that are the hallmark of his shouted woebegone trade. He has always sung well beyond his natural range, and that’s both the appeal and the drawback of his music. The emotion is in the straining, but that sort of thing can be hard to keep up over the course of a single tour, never mind 10 years of touring.

If the packed room of acolytes cared, they didn’t let on, content as they were to shout along to literally every single word of every song played throughout the night, high notes and all. “I’ve got a cold,’’ Carrabba confessed, after muscling his way through the scorching climax of crowd-favorite “Turpentine Chaser.’’ “That’s OK, it makes me sound like I used to anyway.’’ Exactly what fans were there for.

With the business of performing “Swiss Army’’ out of the way, Carrabba seemed to relax, opening up his catalog for a greatest hits second act encompassing songs poppy (“Saints and Sailors’’), defiantly sensitive (“The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most’’), and blistered and raw (“The Best Deceptions’’). “I remember when it was just you guys and me up here for a long time,’’ he said, humbled by the crowd reaction. Most of the crowd seemed to as well.

Luke O’Neil can be reached at

DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL At: the Paradise, Saturday