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Reunited Taking Back Sunday Turns Back the Clock in Boston

July 18, 2010 1 comment

Taking Back Sunday
Person L
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.

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Alkaline Trio Returns Brings “This Addiction” Tour to Providence

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Alkaline Trio’s “This Addiction” Tour
Lupo’s, Providence RI
March 14th 2010

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

This Addiction
Armageddon
Emma
Dine, Dine My Darling
We’ve Had Enough
Lead Poisoning
Mr. Chainsaw
Dead on the Floor
Fatally Yours
Crawl
Mercy Me
Goodbye Forever
In Vein
Continental
Blue Carolina
Sadie
Nose Over Tail
’97

Encore:
Fine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
Radio

Blink-182 Returns With a Bang

August 28, 2009 2 comments

HPIM1255Blink-182
Comcast Center, Mansfield MA
August 6th, 2009

In the days leading up to the show at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Ma, the idea of seeing Blink-182 live didn’t seem that strange. While they had gone on “indefinite hiatus” five years earlier, seemingly never to speak again, the announcement of their return in February didn’t come as a surprise. Since that Grammy night announcement, the band had played a number of small shows and made countless late night TV appearances, stepping back into the spotlight as if they had never really left.

However, when the unmistakable trio of Mark Hoppus, Tom Delonge and Travis Barker took the stage before 20,000 screaming fans, I couldn’t help but be shocked, even if it was only for a moment. It was really happening. Hoppus and DeLonge, who had barely acknowledged each other’s existence for nearly half a decade, were back to licking each other’s necks and making crude jokes. Barker, who was nearly killed in a tragic plane crash only a year earlier, was back behind the kit providing the band’s background, and the fans that seemingly stretched on forever were singing along like it was 2003. Most impressively, Blink was tearing it up, sounding better than they ever had before. In the end,  the band made everyone forget (+44), Angels & Airwaves, the indefinite hiatus, and all the bickering, proving they were back and in a big way.

Before the headliners would take the stage, the night began with two big name openers, and one very awkward one. The latter was Boston’HPIM1168 own Chester French. Their set, played in broad daylight before thousands of empty seats, included multiple attempts to get the crowd interested, all of which were miserable failures.  Luckily, the band made a quick exit after only twenty minutes.

With the sun still shinning, Panic! at the Disco took the stage to a smattering of applause and launched into a set consisting of material mainly  from their wildly successful 2005 debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. The quintet has fallen on some hard times of late with the flop of their second record Pretty, Odd, and the July departure of guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker. However, neither of these things seemed to bother lead singer Brandon Urie who bounced around the stage as he belted out all of the band’s hits. The only other time I had seen Urie and Co. was when they had opened for Fall Out Boy in October 0f 2005. At that show, they had been ear-splittingly bad, relying on recorded beats and stage antics to cover up for their lack of talent. What a difference four years makes. After throwing in Pretty, Odd tracks “Nine in the Afternoon”  and “That Green Gentleman,” for good measure, the band make their exit.

HPIM1187Next up was Fall Out Boy, who had headlined the same venue two years earlier and were in the midst of their final tour before taking a well deserved break in 2010. While their set did run close to 45 minutes, it seemed to fall flat due to the fact that the band focused only on their hit singles. The band played only two tracks from their latest record Folie a Duex, the rather obnoxious “I Don’t Care” and “America’s Suitehearts.” While favorites such as “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” and “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” may have excited some in the crowd, that seemed quite tired to those who had seen the band in the past. This is not to say the band didn’t sound great, mainly because of lead singer Patric Stump’s spectacular vocal performance. Stump’s improvement over the past four years is nothing short of remarkable. If he were a baseball player, everyone in the crowd would be screaming for a drug test.

After Pete Wentz was finished with his rants and Fall Out Boy said good bye to the Boston area for the time being, anticipation began to rise for the return of Blink-182. An enormous black curtain was unfurled in front of the stage while the crew frantically readied what would be an immense stage production. As the crowd began to chant and those lucky enough to be at the front of the stage pushed forward, the lights in the enormous shed dimmed, and the curtain fell.

As the black curtain finally fell, there was a huge roar from the crowd, and the trio that had introduced thousands, if not millions to “punk music” HPIM1240stood ready, only a few feet from where I was being crushed by a few hundred other fans. They quickly burst into “Dumpweed,” and then followed  with “Feeling This” and “Rock Show.” As I mentioned in previous reviews, I am a fan of starting the show off strong, and Blink was doing just that.

One of the more surprising aspects of the show was just how good the band sounded. During their heyday, Blink was generally regarded as a terrible live band. They couldn’t play, they couldn’t sing, all they could do was make lame jokes. Suddenly, Mark and Tom both tore it up on their respective instruments, and Barker was his normal spectacular self behind the kit. Hoppus and Delonge raced back and forth from one edge of the enormous stage to the other, certainly in better shape than any of the sweaty and exhausted fans all around me. Of course, Tom doesn’t have the greatest voice, but while he was downright embarrassing as recently as the band’s national TV appearances, his vocal miscues were barely noticeable on this night as the fans helped to pick up the slack.

In between Tom Delonge jokes (some things never change) Blink played all of their hits, as well as a good portion of their last (and probably best) album, 2003’s Blink-182. While they were supported by an enormous backdrop and light show, it was the frantic movement of Hoppus and Delonge that took center stage. At times, the two displayed the chemistry that had helped to make them household names in the early part of the decade, most notably when Delonge licked Hoppus’s neck.

HPIM1274While the trio did stick mainly to their hits, there were a few surprises on the set list, including “Not Now” and “Man Overboard,” two b-sides which never made on to an official Blink record, but are just as good as any tracks that did. The band would close the set with “Anthem Pt. II,” and then return for the most memorable encore I’ve seen in a while. It began with Travis Barker performing a solo, from about 30 feet in the air. The all-world drummer was lifted above the stage on a platform that dipped and curved at perilous angles, thrilling those watching from down below. The stunt had been a staple of Blink sets even before the band when on hiatus, and it was obvious Barker was well-versed, dazzling the crowd for upwards of ten minutes.

Next was ”Carousel,” an early gem from the band’s 1993 cassette release Buddha, to the delight of longtime fans. “Damnit,” the band’s biggest hit followed, accompanied by showers of confetti. Despite its commercial success, the song remains a favorite of most Blink fans, which was quite obvious from the reaction it evoked. While everyone in attendance begged for more, we’re going to have to wait for another tour and another record. While both of these things seem quite up in the air, Blink’s performance on this night shows they would be foolish not to milk this reunion for all it’s worth. The band has returned from their self-imposed exile stronger than ever, and it’s hard to imagine their next record being anything but another huge success. Much like this tour.

Blink-182 Set List

    1. Dumpweed
    2. Feeling This
    3. The Rock Show
    4. Easy Target
    5. What’s My Age Again?
    6. Obvious
    7. I Miss You
    8. Stay Together for the Kids
    9. Down
    10. Always
    11. Stockholm Syndrome
    12. First Date
    13. Man Overboard
    14. Going Away To College
    15. Not Now
    16. Adam’s Song
    17. All the Small Things
    18. Reckless Abandon
    19. Josie
    20. Anthem Pt. 2
    21. Encore:
    22. Drum Solo
    23. Carousel
    24. Dammit

Alkaline Trio and Saves the Day in Worcester

Alkaline Trio
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
Burn
Fatally Yours
I’m Dying Tomorrow
All On Black
I Found Away
Donner Party
Cooking Wine
Calling All Skeletons
Sadie
One Hundred Stories
The Poison
Cringe
This Could Be Love

Encore
Every Thug Needs a Lady
Radio

Saves the Day Set List (might not be exact)

Anywhere With You
Always Ten Feet Tall
Radio
Where Are You
Shoulder to the Wheel
Eulogy
Freakish
Can’t Stay the Same
Driving in the Dark
Head For the Hills
Rocks Tonic Juice Magic
Kaleidoscope

Nightmare of You Set List ( I think)

I Don’t Want to Dance Anymore
My Name Is Trouble
Amsterdam
The Days Go By Oh So Slow
I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard
Why Am I Always Right
Heaven Runs on Oil