Taking Back Sunday @ In the Venue

Posted June 24, 2009 in
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Taking Back Sunday
In the Venue
with Anberlin

As soon as I arrive at In The Venue, I hear that the show is sold out, and the stifling masses of people around me confirm this.  I worm my way through the thick-necked dudebros and their orange fake-baked girlfriends to find room to breathe on the smoking deck just as opener Anberlin is finishing up their set.  I’m not super familiar with this band—their screamo-y single “Feel Good Drag” has been all over the radio lately (yes, I listen to the radio sometimes, I’m less pretentious than you), and I can usually do without it.  They’re decent performers, even if all the songs I’m hearing are in the same vein as their few forgettable hits.

I settle into a seat that gives me a good view of the stage from above.  Taking Back Sunday’s set predictably features plenty of songs from their new album, New Again, which doesn’t sound markedly different from their older stuff.  Their post-hardcore-influenced radio rock formula works for them, and they’re sticking to it. 

Taking Back Sunday might be formulaic, but they’re still enjoyable. They don’t play a very tight live show, they’re messy but they have good stage presence and a lot of enthusiasm, and they’re a lot of fun when you just need some generic, uncomplicated rocking out.  It’s comforting how standard it is, the electric guitars dominating and the bros moshing and the mediocre vocals getting drowned out by the crowd singing along.  Even when they seem to be running on automatic they still keep their fans engaged, but then sometimes they transcend this model to deliver the raw, sloppy earnestness that makes post-hardcore/emo compelling in the first place.  This especially comes out when they rip into “Everything Must Go,” the last and best track from New Again.  They play this one vicious and all-out and even from up on the balcony it makes my breath catch.   

Frontman Adam Lazzara has a very distinctive stage style that involves limp-wristed mic swinging and a peculiar, fey way of moving that can best be described as a gallop.  This doesn’t have the likely-intended effect of making him seem like a cocksure rock star, but it is hilariously fantastic to watch.  He’s a better performer than he is a singer: His vocals are mostly drowned out by the crowd singing along, but what I can hear of him is, well, not great.  His uneven style works best for their penultimate number, a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.”  I wouldn’t have pegged this song to work well for this band, but Lazzara’s off-key singing makes the song sound cheesy and inebriated and fun.

This is my third time seeing Taking Back Sunday, so I came in knowing what to expect. However, I had never seen them headlining for their own super-stoked crowd before, and I have to admit, I’m not disaffected enough to not find it a little heartwarming to be in the middle of a sold-out show. All these people who love this band, who came just for them, singing and clapping along and sloshing up against one another, worshipping a band that isn’t performing quite well enough to deserve the ardor but is still paying the crowd back with equal adoration.  To me, Taking Back Sunday is a band that I’ve always liked all right but always brushed off as ultimately mediocre, and I’m surrounded by people that seem to absolutely fucking love them.  I might not understand why, but I love this kind of love.