There is absolutely nothing wrong with a nostalgia-soaked night of music, and on Wednesday night at Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave.), Saves the Day was exactly that. But although it pains me to write, the nostalgia seems to be wearing thin.
It was an early 2000’s North East emo basement scene recreated nearly 20 years later in North Brooklyn, in front of all those 17-year-olds who are now nearing their 40s. Although the band on stage at Warsaw still features emo-rock legend vocalist Chris Conley, most of the other members- a literal revolving door with over 20 different people over the years- are mostly all new. The previous dozen plus band members chose to bow out years ago when it just stopped being fun, countless years before the creation of the newly released ninth studio album which dropped earlier this November.
Three or four times during the 90 minute set, there were sparks from the fan favorites that put the band on the national map, such as the opener “At Your Funeral,” “Freakish,” or “Holly Hox.” For the remainder of the setlist, the audience was starved of what they paid to hear- the early catalog- and for a Wednesday night, the packed crowd was not willing to fake it. Conley has every right to create a set list which he prefers, relying on either newer or older songs, but musicians can read audiences very quickly and Conley knows what is going on. The audience stood idle in for large chunks of time while newer songs were performed and it appeared tough for the other bandmates to fake the energy on stage. Conley was often stationary in the center and putting out low energy all night, something I previously have not seen out of him during more recent live performances.
For 90 minutes, the most recent iteration of Saves the Day nearly starved the fans of what they came to see, songs from bands first four full length albums- Can’t Slow Down, Through Being Cool, Star What You Are, and In Reverie. For a band to have four acclaimed and influential albums is an artistic feat 99.9% of bands will never be able to accomplish. Rolling Stone lists ‘Through Being Cool’ (1999) at #18 on its “40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time.” And Saves the Day stands the test of time because they- or maybe I should just say Chris- produced over a dozen songs that truly energize its fan base any time those songs hit, whether it is at a live concert or on their Spotify Time Capsule playlist. But it seems that the angsty New Jersey teenaged years were the musical and emotional spark behind it all and the older grown-up version of Conley who is now based out West in California just lost a lot of the magic.
Conley was wearing clear framed highly tinted Oakley sunglasses in the dark lit Warsaw club. He wasn’t protecting his eyes from UV rays and I don’t think he was doing it to look cool. Instead, Conley was hiding his eyes from his once adoring fans, who are looking to hold on to something they once loved- the music and the memories of their own glory days that Saves the Day connects them to. If a person’s eyes are the entryway into their soul, Chris did not want the Greenpoint crowd seeing into his eyes, because most likely the love of touring has faded and has become more of a job; eyes vacant of a once passionate flare isn’t what anyone wants to see on either side of the lens.
In a lengthy article with Forbes Magazine this week which led to the run-up of the band’s 9th studio album titled ‘9’, Conley openly explains some of the darker elements that have led to such a staggeringly high rate of group member turnover; greed, ego, pride, and control. And I think it can be surmised that ego, greed and pride are largely behind him not wanting to stop touring, even if the energy in the room is fading pretty hard. A longtime fan can tell when someone is just mailing in another performance for a paycheck, and Conley is managing to easily do that- Warsaw was nearly sold out on a Wednesday night. Based on that, it seems that new Saves The Day music will keep coming, regardless of whether or not the new material is embraced. Still, Conley is an emo-rock legend who e controls his own destiny and he will be forever loved. We all have to earn a living. It just serves as a reminder, sometimes letting go of the past is a hard thing to do- for all parties involved.