Supported by a stellar cast that included Vinnie Caruana of the Movielife and I Am The Avalanche, JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights, The Promise Redemption (solo project of Valencia’s Shane Henderson) and Kevin Devine, Anthony Raneri played a stripped down set to a club teeming with his hometown fans.
As New Yorkers, Bayside claimed an aggressive following in their home state since their start in 2000, emphasizing punk rock chock full of hooks, punk/metal inspired riffs, and jarring lyrics. Raneri comes in as the man with the melodic vocals full of soaring and screaming leads that have fans either singing along or watching in wonder. But those fans looking forward to anything resembling a true Bayside show may have been disappointed because the only electric sounds roaring in the Crazy Donkey were the ones from the top 40 radio tracks played in between sets.
But Raneri seemed ready for it. The usually outspoken vocalist of Bayside stepped outside of his role as the frank lead singer and into the shy, guitar-slinging soloist who is over appreciative and thankful. With Bayside’s recent jump into mainstream music consciousness- the bands last release Shudder in 2008 peaked at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200- Raneri has been building his profile as a singer through his various side projects. Removed of all the heavy, punk rock chugging beats, Raneri’s acoustic, bare bone renditions of some of Bayside’s classic hits were refreshing, intimate and exposing of the true nature behind the tracks. What lies behind lyrics usually covered by double bass drums and smashing riffs are depressing, melancholy and sometimes self-doubting sentiments shelled inside a moody, energy-ridden exterior.
Raneri opened with “Good Fucking Bye”, a Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) cover that lacked the resentful bitterness dripping from every Skiba-sung line. But Raneri’s dedication and focus was apparent throughout the song (he even sports an Alkaline Trio tattoo). Raneri showcased a sprawling trail of Bayside tracks “Don’t Call Me Peanut”, “Duality” and “Blame it On Bad Luck”, with an emo disposition.
“Landing Feet First”, the first, and probably last love song Raneri wrote was undoubtedly intended for his ex-wife. Raneri’s voice was seething with both despair and comfort as he explained that he thought love was “bullshit”. A genuine and sincere point in the show, Raneri’s wounded exterior is another side of the singer’s onion-like layering. His ability to transform from emo to angry to earnest and grateful makes him much more than an indie singer; he’s a formidable entity in himself with or without the boys in Bayside behind him.
When he returned to his upbeat, catchy nature on Bayside tracks “Ghost of St. Valentine”, and “I and I”, the heavy sing-along chorus sung by fans could shatter the club walls. “A Long December” by Counting Crows, another fan favorite, was performed with rawness and simplicity that added inventiveness to the piano driven song. Part of Bayside’s appeal derives from their ability to churn out contemplative and tortured lyrics that dig deep into the pain behind the tracks. So when Raneri departs from that role it’s invigorating and very public.
As a solo artist Raneri is charismatic, but a bit shy. He’s still vulnerable and fresh, and a singer who is looking for a firm base as a solo act. The Anthony Raneri we really love works best as the indistinguishable lead vocalist of Bayside; when he’s a level above his music peers, singing in a fiery passionate way that only Raneri can. But on his own, Raneri’s voice is what stands out, not his ability to play (lead) guitar, which he so willingly admits on stage.
The deep, thought provoking lyrics of Bayside when stripped of their amplification are less about emo-punk instrumentals, and more about self-reflection, inner confusion, and a profound questioning of life, which makes not only for an interesting but different listen. Raneri is polished and overly apologetic as a solo singer, but he can’t outshine his presence as the monumental force behind Bayside.