It only took Chris "Dashboard Confessional" Carrabba a few minutes into last night's mostly acoustic show at Webster Hall, his first of three sold-out New York solo gigs supporting his just-released The Shade of Poison Trees, to comment on the age schism between him and his fans. "Is that just a pad of a bra?" he asked about a flung undergarment before shooing it aside. "I didn't know I was getting to be that age." Though nostalgia for a time when girls used to stuff their bars isn't for everybody, the 32-year-old Carrabba built a following on it. As he gets older, it seems his target demographic doesn't, and the co-eds at last night's show were as willing as ever to strain their developing diaphragms while bleating out every song.
The louder they sang, the less he did, leaving the impressively coiffed crooner more time to strum his guitar, shift on his heels, and scrunch up his face with emotion (these were, essentially, Carrabba's only moves). He focused on early albums' agony-filled love songs ("Hands Down," "Screaming Infidelities"), stretching them well beyond three minutes with eager, crowd-fueled calls and responses. And along with guitarist/pianist/labelmate John Ralston, he reimagined newer tracks "Stolen" and "Thick As Thieves" as tuneful slow-burners. The night's only misstep — besides the awkward banter about how the gig wasn't a strip show … yet — was a cover of Weezer's "El Scorcho," during which the gaggle of boys from openers Augustana assisted, huddling around mikes as the band's non-singers snapped along aloofly. But this clunky moment didn't detract much from an otherwise commanding set. —Julia Simon