Say Anything’s debut “…Is a Real Boy” (J/Doghouse) is one of the best punk records of the last 10 years, a deeply personal album about love, sex and insanity (there’s a backstory: Say Anything’s songwriter, Max Bemis, has been institutionalized.) No surprise, then, that a legion of kids has latched on to Say Anything’s truly emotional rock, easily selling out the Troubador; Bemis’s songs speak for many, while maintaining a musical sophistication most in his genre only dream about.
That leads to a rabid audience that moves as a unit, singing along to every word of the power-pop kiss-off “Every Man Has a Molly” or pumping fists with the Say Anything On Broadway rocker “The Futile.” The Clash are the jumping-off point for most of Bemis’s songs, but that influence is heard in not just the Joe Strummer-esque guitars, but Bemis’s urge to work in influences that fall squarely outside of the current pop-punk spectrum. One song need some New Wave? Pump up the keys. Another one feeling stale? Hit the crowd with a prog breakdown. It’s all the same to Bemis and his top-notch band, who attack each chord with precision and importance.
When it was released as an independent record two years ago, “…Is a Real Boy” was overlooked. But if Green Day’s “American Idiot” is the current punk-rock equivalent to the Who’s “Tommy,” “…Is A Real Boy” may be the genre’s “Lifehouse,” Pete Townsend’s forgotten rock opera that includes “Baba O’ Reilly.” Like that project, Say Anything’s one-album catalog — played nearly in its entirety at this show — aims high and hits its target, letting their audience know that they’re way more than a teenage wasteland.