The House of Blues was packed full of people from the moment I arrived. Opening was Ilan Rubin’s (drummer known for working with Lostprophets, Nine Inch Nails, Angels and Airwaves, Paramore) solo project The New Regime. They went wild with funky alternative jams, and throughout their performance, the influx of people seemed as if it would never cease or lessen.
Headlining was The Used, set to play their sophomore album “In Love and Death” in its entirety. The curtains pulled back to a dimly lit stage, with television static playing over the PA. Slowly building up to the spoken introduction to “Take It Away”, the backdrop gradually began to come to life, with a giant red heart flashing light from the center hanging in front of the three-dimensional black and white backdrop representative of the artwork. Spitting high into the air, matching the opening beats, the vocalist Bert McCracken led into the song, screaming “Get down!”
They played through the first three songs off of In Love and Death, swinging limbs to and fro like madmen. It was as if they hadn’t aged a day from when I last saw them, almost a decade ago. In the space between “Let It Bleed”, a song he mentioned was about shooting up, the band led into an impromptu cover of “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King. To many cheers, Bert bravely spoke about how he had been going on 4 years sober, and encouraged the crowd to look out for anyone they know facing that downward spiral of addiction he had only recently escaped.
Originally written for his dog named David Bowie that was hit by a truck during the recording of “In Love and Death”, Bert dedicated the exceptionally emotional and powerful “All That I’ve Got” to the late David Bowie himself. Near the middle, he stopped the song and raised his hands, commanding the crowd to scream. Like a symphonic music conductor, he raised and lowered his arms to show the crowd to scream louder or quiet down. He maintained a fun and childlike demeanor, remaining engaged with the crowd and smiling from ear to ear, pounding his chest with his hands in the shape of a heart. It was truly a great example of what finding love in a life that was previously lacking can do to a person.
At the end of the song, he took a moment to address the crowd about the state of the world. With so many terrible things seeming to happen so frequently, Bert went into detail about how important it is to find and share love with one another as human beings. Acknowledging the exceptionally positive vibe present in the room, he praised the crowd and thanked them for the insanely positive reception. “This kind of love can only spread like a virus, and eat you all alive”, he said, referencing how the entire room seemed to be full of love. Strangers had come together to relive the performance of an album released 12 years ago, one I had grown up to, and happiness was running rampant. “Thank you for letting me be myself up here…. I hope you’re all having as much fun as I am”, he continued, leading to speak about the importance of allowing yourself the happiness of a child and encouraged the concertgoers to feel the same childlike glee he clearly felt onstage. There’s something very huge about seeing a man you grew up singing along with finally being able to show his personal victory over the demons you’ve bonded over, and that feeling wasn’t lost on me for a single moment.
The Used continued on, playing through “Cut Up Angels” and “Listening”. When leading into “Yesterday’s Feelings”, the guitarist switched over to an acoustic guitar, and Bert confessed to the crowd that the final few songs on the album were the result of him picking himself up with the band to cope with the death of his first love, due to overdose. He mentioned how huge it is to have fans tell him that the record saved their lives, and how in a sense, writing it saved his own.
“Light With A Sharpened Edge” played next, into “Sound Effects and Overdramatics”, the heaviest song off of the album that drew quite a reaction from the crowd. It was almost hard to hear Bert’s voice over the crowd, screaming the chorus at a deafening level in unison.
When going into “Hard To Say”, Bert spoke about the importance of telling the people you love just exactly what they mean to you. Nurturing the loving atmosphere of the room, he asked the crowd to throw their arm around their significant other if present, and if not, grab a stranger and give them a hug. Leaning down to the closest security guard, he leaned in for a hug and was met with a smile. In an overwhelming response, it moved the entire room. I felt an arm lay on my shoulder and I blindly hugged whomever it belonged to.
Bringing the acoustic back out, the string introduction to my personal favorite song “Lunacy Fringe” began to play. The entire room lit up, singing every single word just like they’d done every other song, but this one felt special. Maybe personal bias, maybe due to how happy and catchy this song is. Near the middle where the song slows, suddenly the lights turned red, yellow, and green, leading into a mashup of the songs “I Shot the Sherriff” by Bob Marley and “Smoke Two Joints” by Sublime.
Near the end, Bert thanked the crowd for being so great and responsive throughout the entire set, and gave a shout out to the hardcore/old school fans. “I know you know THE poem…” he began after a few moments, asking them to repeat the introduction of “I’m a Fake” along with him. The song was easily the most energetic of the night, and as it was the end of the album, the crowd reacted as such. Bert orchestrated a wall of death for when the music came in, and the room obeyed, parting like the Red Sea until given the queue to run at each other as fast as they could. As the song ended, the band thanked the crowd for an unforgettable night, and walked backstage to the cacophonous cheering of hundreds. As a chant began for an encore, it didn’t take long for the band to take the stage again.
Bert took the liberty to talk to the crowd a bit, cracking jokes here and there while the band behind him played various recognizable tunes, from Enter Sandman by Metallica to Michael Jackson. The entire band graciously thanked the fans for having supported them for the past 15 years, and Bert mentioned they hope to go at least another 15 more, to the cheers of the entire venue.
As the album was finished, The Used led into a song off of their hit album “Lies for the Liars”, titled “Pretty Handsome Awkward”. Kicking and swinging about, they nailed it and the concertgoers ate it up. It was too obvious how much fun this band still has after 15 years, and not only was it inspiring, it was heartwarming to see them have come this far and been prevalent for this long.
To put it lightly, it was an emotional night. Having the privilege to see a band I’ve loved for many years perform my favorite album of theirs in its entirety was incomparable. Bert himself informed the crowd that due to the heavy emotional nature of most of the songs on “In Love and Death”, they seldom perform them, but as it was an anniversary tour and a very special night, he was happy to share them with everyone. I found it hard to hold back throughout, as not only was it a throwback to the nostalgia of my youth, but a massive leap forward showing that even the most desperate of times are capable of being conquered. To have survived this far and through so much is not only admirable, but commendable, and to be able to share this with thousands of people across the world is a feat not often reached by many.
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