LIVE: Dashboard Confessional / Black Foxxes @ Academy 2, Manchester

By Gem Rogers

Ten years is… well, it’s a long time. If you were to suggest that an artist could essentially disappear for the best part of that time and still maintain a fan base, few would believe you – and for the first fifteen minutes or so after doors opened to Manchester Academy 2, it seemed like they may be right not to. When Dashboard Confessional released ‘Crooked Shadows’ in February, it’d been nine years since we were blessed with a studio album – and although there have been a handful of shows in the US over the years, it’s now been over ten since the last UK tour.

Any initial sparsity in the crowd can, perhaps, be attributed to many fans no longer being especially young (sorry) and thus not interested in hanging around gig venues too early – but the room does eventually begin to fill, and rapidly, as most have made the wise decision to arrive in time for support act Black Foxxes. The Devon alt-rock trio deliver an almost impossibly tight set with spellbinding precision; first track ‘Breathe’ swells and eases in hypnotic waves, whilst Mark Holley’s vocals have a beauty and strength that comes across even more powerfully in this live setting than on record. This power continues through the set, with the lively ‘Manic In Me’ a highlight of this precision performance by three immensely talented musicians.

As the time arrives for Dashboard Confessional to take to the stage, the room has become quite possibly the largest gathering of overexcited 30-somethings you’re ever likely to encounter. It’s not only down to the bloody long wait we’ve had to hear these songs live again (did we mention it’s been ten years? TEN?); there is something about the music Chris Carrabba has produced that inspires intense loyalty and emotion in those touched by it. For those in the know, it’s unsurprising that this fan base is still around, and as the first bars of ‘The Best Deceptions’ break out, so too do the voices of everyone in the room – these are lyrics imprinted on the souls of all in attendance.

It’s a set that primarily draws on the most familiar of Dashboard’s material, with only a brief nod to this year’s ‘Crooked Shadows’ later in the evening with ‘We Fight’. The full band emerge for the beautiful ‘Don’t Wait’, with singalongs continuing in force – and Carrabba couldn’t look more delighted.

“It’s been a minute since we’ve been here,” he says at one stage, with a smile and a pause, before continuing – “Sorry.” In the moments between songs, Carrabba stops to engage with the crowd and speak with a quiet nervousness littered with long pauses. It’s almost awkward, but his sincerity and humour, combined with the enraptured respect paid by the audience, instead make these moments endearing – and frequently funny.

All that quietness is nowhere to be found the second each song bursts into life, though. The rest of the band, including long time bassist Scott Schoenbeck, are a well-oiled machine, providing a perfect musical backdrop to the beautiful and emotive vocals. A little later in the set, we’re treated to a song Carrabba reveals he “wrote this morning”, yet it fits perfectly amongst the familiar melodies of songs like ‘Again I Go Unnoticed’ and ‘Screaming Infidelities’.

This may be one of the larger venues in the Manchester Academy building, but the atmosphere feels like the most intimate of club rooms, and the night is brought to a magical close with ‘Hands Down’. Singalongs have been constant throughout, with final pre-encore track ‘Vindicated’ being one of the most heartfelt, yet none quite compare to this one last song. The final refrains are extended as Carrabba stands alone on stage to sing with us, the words echoing around the room and in our hearts.

It’s been a surreal and magical evening, a room full of people falling in love all over again with the sounds that got them through their teenage years (and beyond). Dashboard Confessional still have everything it takes to captivate a crowd and put on a memorable show; and though a few more of the recent tracks would’ve been welcomed as a reminder that Dashboard aren’t just a throwback band, it has been as close to perfect a comeback as we could have hoped for. Can we be so bold as to request that the next one is sooner than 2028, please?