Taking Back Sunday
House of Blues Boston
June 25th, 2010
Just a year ago, I wrote a glowing review of a Taking Back Sunday show at the House of Blues in Boston. While I wasn’t a fan of their recently released album New Again, I praised them for their ability to put on a terrific live show despite numerous line-up changes and enough inter-band drama to support an MTV reality show. Like former heavy weight champs well past their prime, the band kept picking themselves up off the canvas and throwing haymakers. And most of them were right on target.
But like that aging boxing, it was apparent that Taking Back Sunday didn’t have much time left before they couldn’t overcome the fact they just weren’t as good as they good as they used to be. And that is when the nearly unthinkable happened. On April Fools Day, guitarist Matt Fazzi and bassist Matt Rubano were unceremoniously dumped to make way for a reunion of the band’s original line-up.
With the re-addition of John Nolan and Sean Cooper (both of whom had famously quit the band in 2003), the energy and excitement surrounding the band was suddenly revived. Dates for a short club tour were soon announced, and when the band returned to Boston, it was obvious that this would be a much different show than anything fans had seen in the recent past.
The only band opening the tour was Person L, lead by former Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli. While Vasoli’s previous band could always be counted on to get a crowd moving, the same can not be said of Person L. Most did not seem at all familiar with the band’s work, which was slower than any of the Starting Line’s best material.
After Person L left the stage, fans impatiently endured a half hour wait before a giant American Flag was unfurled as the stage backdrop. Another ten minute wait followed, before Taking Back Sunday finally appeared and made the wait seem worth it. As the opening cords to “Cute Without the E” rang out, most of those on the floor charged forward and burst into an overwhelmingly loud sing-along.
With a huge smile on his face, John Nolan belted out the song’s signature backing vocals, but was easily drowned out by the those singing along. Opening a show with your biggest song seems a bit risky, but if there was ever a time to do it, this was the tour. The band then barreled through “Set Phasers to Stun” and “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” This opening trio, which featured a standout track from each of the band’s first three records set a frenzied tone for the rest of the night.
The band would continue to cycle through material from their first three records for the rest of the night, largely ignoring 2009’s New Again, save for the power ballad-esque “Everything Must Go.”
Nearly as memorable as the songs themselves was the between song banter. Unlike last year’s at times awkward Blink-182 reunion tour, the jokes and good natured ribbing never seemed forced or rehearsed. Lazzara repeatedly thanked the crowd for sticking with them, and admitted the day Nolan and Cooper left the band was one of the worst he could remember. It was obvious that chemistry between Lazzara and Nolan that had been destroyed seven years earlier had returned in a big way.
One of the more memorable moments of the night came via a cover of Straylight Run’s “Existentialism on Prom Night.” The song had provided Nolan and Cooper with their biggest post-Taking Back Sunday hit, and it was oddly fitting in a “never thought I would see this happen” kind of way.
The reunited quintet would also debut two strangely titled new songs, both of which sounded promising, especially compared to their most recent material. Following “I’m Not Gay, I Just Wish I Were (Baby Your Beard Hurts),” the band would end the set just like they had started,with a trio of powerhouse tracks that brought the crowd back to life. Following “Great Romances of the 20th Century ” and “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” Lazzara was at his best for “MakeDamnSure,” during which he would heave his microphone up into the rafters, only to have it not come down.When the band returned for the encore minutes later, Lazzara took a look at cord hanging from the ceiling and stated simply “I win.”
The musical portion of the encore consisted of two songs, the first of which was “Your Own Disaster.” The show would then conclude with another old favorite, “There’s no ‘I’ in Team.” While the band doesn’t seem content with reliving their past, nostalgia was certainly the theme of the night. Lazzara even tried his hand at stage diving, showing he may be done with the slick and polished frontman act he had been practicing for quite some time.
While Taking Back Sunday has a steep climb ahead of them if they hope to win back many of the fans they lost over the past few years, this short tour was certainly a big step in the right direction. The fact that the band will soon enter the studio is another positive sign. Reliving the past may have been the focus on this night in Boston, but the reality is the band’s future depends on whether they can rediscover the spark that got them huge in the first place. From an outsider’s point of view, it doesn’t seem like they’ll have to look too hard.
While Alkaline Trio’s most recent releases haven’t contained many surprises, the same can’t be said of their lives shows. Each of the five times I’ve seen the band, they’ve busted out a track or two that no one in the crowd saw coming, whether it be a b-side like “Queen of Pain” or an older gem like “Cooking Wine.” Needless to say, I was excited to see what type of curve balls they would throw into the set on their “This Addiction” tour. While the band chose a set list that was more predictable than in the past, the night wasn’t without its surprises.
The show began with a set from the Dear and Departed, a set which we missed the majority of. The wait between the openers was very short, as Omaha cult-favorites Cursive took the stage after only fifteen minutes. The band put in an effort that was at times sloppy, but also energetic and entertaining. There was virtually no banter between tracks, as Kim Kasher and Co. ripped through song after song. The set list focused mainly of the band’s last three albums, with Ugly Organ fare receiving the strongest reaction from the rather small contingent of Cursive fans in the crowd.
While the band had been joined on past headlining tours by a full brass section, that wasn’t the case on this tour. The difference was at least somewhat noticeable, especially on older tracks. Songs from the band’s most recent album Momma, I’m Swollen such as “I Couldn’t Love You” and “From the Hips” were the highlights of the set, at least from where I was standing.
After agonizingly long wait in between bands (40 minutes to be exact), Alkaline Trio took the stage. They kicked off the show with This Addiction, the title track from their latest album. While the record has only been out a few weeks, it still received quite a reaction from the Providence crowd.
More familiar tracks such as “Armageddon” and “We’ve Had Enough” drove the crowd insane… literally. Rarely, if ever, have I been part of such a spastic group of fans. If they weren’t violently flailing in the pit attempting to hit as many people as possible, they were shoving everyone in sight in a lame attempt to get back at whoever had bumped into them. It was obnoxious, to say the least.
Dealing with the crowd certainly did take away from the show, but the band sounded better than ever. The usually suspect vocals of Dan Adriano were surprisingly clear on tracks such as “Crawl,” and This Addiction standout “Dine, Dine My Darling.” Guitarist Matt Skiba was solid as always, especially on the new track “Dead on the Floor”
While Alkaline Trio has specialized in set list surprises of late, the band played it conservative on this night, highlighting This Addiction material and focusing on past hits. The encore featured a little bit of both, with Adriano shining on “Fine” and the crowd exploding for closing number “Radio.” Squeezed in between was Misfits cover “Attitude.”
All in all, the band put in a great effort, but a so-so set list and equally mediocre crowd stopped this from being as a truly great show. Hopefully, the band decides to switch it up a little more on their next tour, and the crowd remembers they’re at a show and not a street fight. If both of these things happen, it will make for a very memorable night. If not, it will still be worth the price of admission.
Alkaline Trio set list
Dine, Dine My Darling
We’ve Had Enough
Dead on the Floor
Nose Over Tail
Attitude (Misfits cover)
Saves the Day
Nightmare of You
The Palladium, Worcester
May 2nd 2009
When you’ve seen a band enough times, you come to know what to expect from their live shows. You know the songs they’re definitely going to play, you know what the encore will be, and you know which songs everyone will sing along to the loudest. There’s nothing wrong with this, for if a band puts on a great show that the fans are happy with, why make any changes? This is what I expected from Alkaline Trio’s headlining show at the Palladium in Worcester on May 2nd. The show was my fifth time seeing the band in the past year, the first two being headlining shows, and the latter two supporting Rise Against. To my (very pleasant) surprises, the band did not follow the normal formula, instead playing a set that contained almost none of the songs I had heard them play in the past, perfectly mixing tracks both old and new.
The show began with a thirty minute set from Nightmare of You, a band that was once considered “the next big thing” after the release of their self-titled debut in 2005, but has done very little since that point. The group’s set list consisted mainly of tracks from that debut, along with a new cut from their second album, which is set to be released this July. The band’s performance was marred by the borderline awful sound at the Palladium, as Brandon Reilly’s smooth vocals were often drowned out by the drone of Brandon Meyer’s bass lines. The crowd, which was rather sparse at this point, was quite unenthusiastic with only a few in attendance bobbing their heads or showing any familiarity with the band.
Next was Saves the Day, a band that has maintained a rabid fan base despite the fact their last three records haven’t been all the successful. This was evident by the amount of fans who tried to squeeze their way to the stage after Nightmare of You’s set. I’ve seen Saves the Day a number of times over the past four years, and I hate to admit it, but this was certainly the worst performance I’ve witnessed from the band. While they sounded fine, the set list, and the length of the set itself, left most of the Saves the Day fans in the crowd very disappointed. For one, the band only played for about 40 minutes, and for fans that are accustomed to seeing Saves the Day play much longer headlining sets, this came as somewhat of a shock. Next, the band did include a few old favorites in the set list, but they were mixed in with too many new songs, which for the most part acted as crowd killers. While cuts like “Radio” and “Driving in the Dark” are fine songs, they certainly aren’t the band’s best work, and instead of sing-alongs, they elicited mainly blank stares. This is not to say there weren’t some high points, such as “Shoulder to the Wheel” and “Freakish,” but for the most part, they were too few and far between. Saves the Day made matters worse by closing the set with “Kaleidoscope,” a long and dull number off their latest album that completely drained the energy from the room.
Luckily, Alkaline Trio would take a completely different route during their set, playing older fan favorites that they had been neglecting on previous tours. After casually walking out on stage after an agonizing 35 minute wait, the band would greet the crowd and begin the set with “My Friend Peter,” a fan-favorite that instantly worked the audience into a frenzy. Next was “If We Never Go Inside.,” a track from 2003’s Good Mourning. This hinted at what was to come, for the band played more songs from this record than off any other albums, including last year’s Agony and Irony, which was only represented by 2 songs.
While Alkaline Trio fans seemed to have mixed feelings towards Good Mourning, it was the album that introduced me to the band, so I was loving every minute of it. The band would also play “One Hundred Stories,” “Donor Party,” “Fatally Yours,” and “All on Black,” from this record, as well as “This Could Be Love” to close the set, and “Every Thug Needs a Lady” as the first song of the encore. Other old favorites included in the set were “Cringe,” the lone Goddamnit” song represented, “Cooking Wine,” and “I’m Dying Tomorrow,” all three of which received huge reactions from the crowd. While everyone seemed to enjoying themselves at the show, the crowd was certainly the tamest I had seen at an Alkaline Trio show, possibly the result of the more obscure set list that had some of the younger fans scratching their heads and waiting for more Agony and Irony tracks. The band however would only offer Calling “Calling All Skeletons” and “I Found Away,” from that record, ignoring lead single “Help Me,” and announcing about half way through the set they had parted ways with Epic Records.
The crowd seemed less than surprised by this news (the idea of Alkaline Trio on a major label was always somewhat odd), and the band debuted a new song for the first time. While the song sounded good, the band would apologize for the “B” effort. Lead singer Matt Skiba told the crowd they hoped to get in the studio this summer and then self-release a new album next fall. Throughout the set, Skiba and guitarist Dan Adriano were more talkative than I had seen them, and they both sounded great when actually performing their material. At one point, Skiba went off on a tangent about the greatness of 70’s rock band Grand Funk Railroad. While the band had looked slightly uncomfortable int heir opening role for Rise Against the last time I saw them live, they were certainly in their element tonight.
The band would close the show as they normally do, playing “This Could Be Love,” leaving the stage, and then returning for an encore that concluded with “Radio,” which of course inspired an enormous sing along. Overall, a show that got off to a disappointingly slow start turned out to be as memorable as any I’ve seen, thanks solely to the performance of Alkaline Trio, and band that knows exactly what their fans want and seems to deliver every single time.
Alkaline Trio Set List (Not in exact order)
My Friend Peter
If We Never Go Inside
I’m Dying Tomorrow
All On Black
I Found Away
Calling All Skeletons
One Hundred Stories
This Could Be Love
Every Thug Needs a Lady
Saves the Day Set List (might not be exact)
Anywhere With You
Always Ten Feet Tall
Where Are You
Shoulder to the Wheel
Can’t Stay the Same
Driving in the Dark
Head For the Hills
Rocks Tonic Juice Magic
Nightmare of You Set List ( I think)
I Don’t Want to Dance Anymore
My Name Is Trouble
The Days Go By Oh So Slow
I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard
Why Am I Always Right
Heaven Runs on Oil