Expecting a 1,000 rabid, jailbait fans, it was a surprise to discover most of the crowd that packed into the ballroom of St. Andrew’s Hall for their chance to see Saves The Day represented a spectrum of age groups, with an unexpected showing of college-age concertgoers. Most were mature, reserved, if not a bit mellow, and everyone only hyped up momentously to unabashedly adore Saves The Day as they climbed onstage.

Paul Wong
Chris Conley is no Black Francis.

Following their July 2001 release of Stay What Your Are, Saves The Day has been on tour non-stop ever since, working with their new bank-roller, Vagrant Records. The album, coupled with their enigmatic music video on MTV, has propelled the group to the breeding grounds of mainstream pop rock.

So, why was it so disappointing this time? Absent was their usual spirit and energy, and the enchantment of the poets’ songs failed to send chills through one’s spine as when listened to on the CD. The recent departure of guitarist Ted Alexander and drummer Bryan Newman may be a factor in their falter, and vocalist Chris Conley has consequently picked up the backup guitar to fill the void left by Alexander, temporarily abandoning his “hip gyrations” with the mic when he only sang.

To satisfy the legion of devotees that amassed to hear Chris coo, STD played all the songs from Stay What Your Are, with the exception of “Jukebox Breakdown.” Other favorites from older releases made up the rest of their 21-song set. A random cover of the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” sort of confused most, and the whole arrangement could’ve really benefited from an acoustic number, for Conley’s voice is the most crisp when enveloped in subtle silhouettes of silence.

Crowd pleasers in the show were concentrated on slow easy to lip-sync lullabies, such as “Freakish” and “Firefly,” when the most abundant waist strumming of air guitars showed up in the crowd. One impromptu sax solo in the midst of STD’s “Take Our Cars” was performed by Elliott Bergman, a Michigan music student and member of the Ann Arbor pop group Saturday Looks Good To Me, who is on tour with Saves The Day and opened the show for them.

Saves The Day’s early teenage sound and what they perform today are hauntingly different. Gone is the spunky, rebellious hardcore punk STD had been known, and instead there emerged a greater emotional fixation within their sound, coupled by the toning down of that punk-rock flair. STD was innovative enough to develop themselves uniquely from the old hardcore to this new, sometimes quirky, sound. What has evolved, amazingly, is the so-called “emo” rock genre that so many bands have latched on to.

The dangerous path for Saves The Day, however, lies in what they make of this musical metamorphisis. Their new album has been a success, largely thanks to the creativity of Conley & Co. making a unique, genre-defining record. But what STD doesn’t seem to realize, or care, is that now they’ve placed themselves too far away from their originating roots, the punk/hardcore community with which their current pop-slathered pretty-boy personas cannot coexist. The change is evident in Saves The Day’s outward appearance: whereas the STD of yesteryears were composed of short-cut suburban rebels, have now been replaced by seemingly bohemian urbanites, with Conley looking like a bobbing hippie with a tambourine on stage, his flowing hair swaying and covering puberty-inflamed blemishes like a hula skirt.

As Saves The Day progress on this solo tour, many more fans of their album will expect to hear the heartfelt, gut-wrenching poetry instrumental to STD’s fame. Unless they solve the existent afflictions and inconsistencies, though, those fans will never fully experience the enchantment promised by STD’s recordings.

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