Show Review: The Used at House of Blues 4.29.15

by Terence Cawley (Biology), published May 4th 2015

photos by Terence Cawley

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Unfortunately, I missed The Eeries, first openers for April 29th’s show at House of Blues, and only got to hear two songs from Marmozets, a meat-and-potatoes hard rock band whose singer, Becca Macintyre, impressively recalled Geddy Lee when she yelled. Every Time I Die played next, and their aggressive blend of metalcore and Southern-fried riffs inspired mania in the crowd, with a large circle pit forming and burly men throwing their limbs around with reckless abandon in said pit. One of these gleeful ragers accidentally punched me in the eye, and while he showed concern for my well-being and clearly didn’t want to hurt anyone, the incident demonstrated why violent circle pits are not everyone’s idea of a fun concert activity. After shouting out Boston’s hardcore scene for inspiring their formation, Every Time I Die played a few straightforward hardcore numbers, including a cover of Nirvana’s “Tourette’s,” before finishing with more songs like set highlight “The New Black” in the band’s signature style. The Southern rock grooves Every Time I Die incorporated into their sound gave the performance a trashy yet fun vibe, effectively getting the crowd excited for The Used.

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The biggest obstacle facing The Used became evident when they opened with “Maybe Memories,” the first song on the 2002 self-titled debut album which launched the band to stardom and remains their greatest achievement. The band played the song’s opening riff, the crowd prepared to scream the lyrics with front man Bert McCracken and…McCracken lowered the microphone and mouthed the words, leaving the crowd to shout alone. McCracken’s inability to scream, probably due to complications from his 2007 vocal cord surgery, forced him to repeat this anticlimactic ritual throughout the concert. His singing range seems to have narrowed over the years as well, forcing the group to play old hits like “The Taste of Ink” in lower keys.

McCracken attempted to compensate for his diminished vocal firepower with a confusing mixture of crowd-pleasing enthusiasm and attempts at political sloganeering. One minute, McCracken was encouraging the fans to be themselves and praising them for sticking with the band throughout their almost 15-year tenure; the next, he was talking about moving to Australia for free health care and exhorting the crowd to “f— the world…with your minds.” Subtlety has never been The Used’s strong suit, and just as they often accentuate their heart-on-sleeve lyricism in their artwork with literal hearts, McCracken made his new zeal for political awareness painfully obvious by walking onstage in a Karl Marx shirt and playing a song about revolution called, natch, “Revolution,” along with a medley of three Rage Against the Machine songs during the encore. The ham-fisted politicking, while well-intentioned, felt out of place, especially when juxtaposed with McCracken’s requests for circle pits and walls of death.

The Used cultivated an aesthetic during their mid-2000s heyday which did as much to define what “emo” meant to the Hot Topic generation as any band besides possibly their pals in My Chemical Romance. True, that aesthetic may have been corny and overwrought, but it came from a place of sincere love, as the band’s lyrical themes of romance, overcoming adversity and the healing power of music were generally more positive than those of their mall-goth peers. And while The Used may have been unable to replicate the youthful intensity of their early years at the House of Blues, for the die-hard fans with Used tattoos yelling every word of sappy yet heartfelt anthems like “All That I’ve Got” and “I Caught Fire,” the fact that the band was still out there making their best effort at recapturing that former glory for them was more than enough.

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