In 2000, while being the lead singer for the band Further Seems Forever, a young Chris Carrabba began writing songs on the side as a way of channeling his thoughts and emotions. This collection of acoustic songs was recorded and released as The Swiss Army Romance. Soon after, Carrabba started Dashboard Confessional. The band rose to prominence after recording an acoustic set on television entitled MTV Unplugged 2.0 that would sell over a million copies. This year, Chris Carrabba embarked on a solo acoustic tour celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his first album, with the final show here in Atlanta at the Masquerade.
Walking into the upstairs “Heaven,” one was immediately greeted by a large, boisterous crowd, eagerly anticipating the show. The grungy atmosphere was surprisingly warm and inviting, with the simple stage lit in a dim blue haze. The setup was just a microphone, a piano and a couple of acoustic guitars.
Suddenly, a buzz arose from the crowd as a lively John Lefler walked up to the microphone. As the lead guitarist and keyboard player of the band, he was a familiar face for many. He opened with “Ordinary Guy” a bright guitar tune crooning about ignoring social pressures and the extraordinary feeling of having a girlfriend. In his most memorable song, “Dream Your Life Away,” he battled notions from his father about failing as a son.
After Lefler, Memphis, Tenn. native Corey Branan took the stage. While the crowd was hospitable, his acoustic-country didn’t excite. Still, his most memorable song, “Girl Named Go,” had the crowd singing along on the choruses.
Twenty minutes later, the stage went dark and the entire room erupted. Walking on stage, acoustic guitar in hand, Carrabba strode to the front. Playing the entire The Swiss Army Romance album, he opened with “Screaming Infidelities.” The soaring, shimmering sound of his acoustic guitar blended perfectly with his smooth voice and the roar of the crowd. On just his second song, Carrabba began to harmonize with the ever-increasing roar of the crowd. His desire to connect with the audience was evident as he stepped away from the mic, leaned over the crowd and sang along as they carried his songs.
His songwriting skills were evident throughout the set. His cries not only capture the feelings and emotions of love lost in “The Sharp Hint of New Tears,” but also the hope and excitement of beginning new relationships, as in “So Impossible.” For many teenagers and young adults struggling with finding love and a sense of belonging, his songs are anthems for hope of a better life.
After concluding the album with “Shirts and Gloves,” Carrabba began playing some crowd favorites and songs from other albums, starting with “As Lovers Go.” Throughout the show, he expertly entertained the audience with a seasoned blend of fast songs mingled with his trademark slower laments.
Almost two hours later Carrabba closed the last show of the tour with two crowd favorites. Screaming lines from “Vindicated” and “Hands Down,” body dripping with sweat and voice drenched in emotion, he pleaded with the crowd to release their hurt and pain. They obliged, pouring out their souls and screaming with already strained vocals.
Despite it being the last night of a grueling tour, Carrabba’s vocals were flawless as he kept the crowd engaged for the entire concert. His entertaining performance and connection with the audience left everyone in a state of bliss.