Gig Review by Kirsty Hillyer with Photography by Chris Bowley

This was my first outing to the new-ish Digbeth venue The Mill and what an awesome spot it is. Nestled next to the arches you can expect it to be cold but the sound is great and the outdoorstaging superb.

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Plymouth lads, Black Foxxes, are a band whose name has been knocking around the depths of my brain but they weren’t one I’d ever listened to before. Opener ‘Breathe’ saw the hairs on my arms start to stand on end as they are a band not afraid to deliver the quiet before the crashing. Following this grungy post hardcore number with a poppy and heartfelt, John Hughes movie soundtrack candidate I was still on board. Bassist, Tristan Jane, plays low and looming in his movements competing against the affected lurch like gestures of singer, Mark Holley.

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Sadly the visceral screams of ‘LIAR’ on ‘Oh, it had to be you’ were soon forgotten by the delivery of a “straight up song… you don’t have to think about” said Mark Holley, in the hopes of gleaning more response from a standard quiet Brummie support act reception.

Rattling through a generic Kings of Leon, mainstream Americana, number left me cold and checked out until they walked off to a wall of feedback. They will no doubt fast become Radio 1 fodder but they’re yet to convince me.

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Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba enters to Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Sweetness’; rocking a Sabbath shirt. However, the failure to turn the mic on ruined the full impact of his acoustic opener of ‘Best Deceptions’, despite half the crowd singing along hesitantly at the lack of sound before them. Not that this mattered to the girl to my left; orgasming and practically collapsing to her knees in front of her boyfriend at the sight of Mr Carrabba. I’d forgotten that there was once this boy band proclivity for him.

A long time professional at managing a sing-a-long crowd he created space for just his own voice to be heard.

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The full band soon entered for ‘Don’t Wait’ off the 2006 release ‘Dusk Till Summer’. Drummer, Christopher Kamrade brings a stadium rock show feel with his crossed sticks in the air and cutaway shirt. The energy he drives from the back creates a sense of joy and prempts the rock show cheese factor. A very different energy and intensity to previous long time drummer, Mike Marsh, whose classic alt rock, emo leanings from the likes of his Seville band days are sorely missed.

Sadly some of the full band arrangements of Dashboard’s classic acoustic anthems fall short. ‘Remember to Breathe’ from the ‘So Impossible’ EP is 17 years old, a song of nerves and anxiety that’s lost in this rousing rock show rendition. If they’d added a Gospel Choir to go next level extra then, only then, could I possible have got on board. As a long time favourite this arrangement cut a bit too deep into the connection I have with this number.

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As Chris Carrabba takes a moment to absorb it all in, pondering their previous break up, and the low numbers in the crowd that had been to a show before, I was left thinking of the first time I’d seen Dashboard. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen him, but you never forget your first Dashboard community sing-a-long, especially when it was in the long since demolished Metro Club, London 2002. Man I’m old.

After such a hiatus they recognised the need to play a best of set with only two songs from their 2018 release ‘Crooked Shadows’.

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Lamenting the loss of America’s best guy, Obama, to be left with an “international embarrassment” they play ‘We Fight’ an anthem they performed at rallies to encourage voting and a song of hope, an appropriate song for Remembrance Sunday.

The second song off the new album resulted in crowd sung harmonies being recorded for ‘Heart Beat Here’. It was a mixed crowd of those fervent followers that sing along with every song, to a sea of dragged along partners and new fans unfamiliar with the old tracks due to the limited availability on some streaming services.

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Tonight, I felt that there was a missing piece from the storytelling that Chris Carrabba is best at and I can’t decide whether this was simply down to the out of order playing of the tracks off the ‘So Impossible’ EP, the new electric and full band arrangements, or overly long, held notes missing the intent behind his original melodies and intonations.

A return to a solo acoustic stint left us treated with tracks off ‘Mark and Mission a Brand a Scar’ with ‘Carry this Picture’ and ‘Ghost of a Good Thing’; it also brought the highlight of the show for me. Deciding to play acoustically a little longer, whether by virtue of the love in the room or his sober, self acknowledged sexiness, Chris delivered a song of a Summer in the south as an aged 9-11.5 year old boy and falling in love at the Roller rink. A short, sweet song I’d never heard before that struck a chord with the storytelling and romanticism of the details that I’ve always loved about Dashboard.

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Album title tracks were blasted through with a full band aplomb before the set closed on THE song. You know the one about the best date ever. Yeah the big hit, that’s not even the best song.

It was a fun evening that belied a cheesy rock to songs once full of raw emotion. On the one hand I empathise in the annoyance of playing the same old songs and the weariness of repeating the words felt by that former twenty something self, but then I know what it feels like to be a part of a Jonah Matranga show and know that it’s possible to authentically deliver and reimagine, whilst respecting what was once felt. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast but the goosebumps those songs should still deliver failed to come.

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Set list:
Best Deceptions (Acoustic)

Don’t Wait
The Sharp Hint of New Tears
The Good Fight
Saints and Sailors
We Fight
Remember to Breathe
So Impossible
Rapid Hope Loss
I go unnoticed
Carry This Picture (Acoustic)
Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (Acoustic)
Rollerskate rink song (Acoustic)
Ghost of a Good Thing (Acoustic)
Heart Beat Here (Acoustic)
Screaming Infidelities
Stolen
Vindicated

Encore:
Hands Down

See the complete photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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One Response to “Dashboard Confessional + Black Foxxes at The Mill, Birmingham, UK – 11th November 2018”

  1. P Says:

    Seems like quite a negative review to me. In my opinion it was a fantastic set list, and great to hear some of the intimate songs with a rock vibe. The last 2 times seeing dashboard in the uk being Chris only with his guitar, this was a great contrast.

    For info, the rollerskate rink song was a cover – Skateland South by Cory Branan.

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