Concert Review: Taking Back Sunday at Turner Hall (Milwaukee, WI)

Taking Back Sunday (Long Island, NY)
October 10th, 2012
Turner Hall in Milwaukee, WI

“Ten years ago we put out an album, Tell All Your Friends.  It goes like this.”

And with that humble introduction, Adam Lazzara launched Milwaukee’s Turner Hall into an album-length trip down memory lane.  A performance that many of the Taking Back Sunday faithful thought would never happen.

It was the fall of 2003; I was just beginning my freshman year of college, and with that, doing the usual roommate conversational bonding.  When we hit on the subject of music, I hailed an album I had been playing heavily since the spring of my high school senior year: Tell All Your Friends.  Taking Back Sunday, couldn’t wait to see them play live.

“Oh, yeah…didn’t they breakup?”

“”What?”

I remember my roommate Bryan recounting fragments of the vague details surrounding the schism in the young Long Island band; a band that was on the very brink of a colossal takeover.  Bands with this much buzz, this much promise, don’t just breakup. Right?

Well Taking Back Sunday was salvaged just short of a complete breakup, but things were messy, and they weren’t going to be the same.  The second half of Taking Back Sunday’s dueling vocalists, John Nolan, left to form Straylight Run, and he took TBS bassist Shaun Cooper with him.  Lazzara, along with TBS founder Eddie Reyes and drummer Mark O’Connell, found replacements for Nolan and Cooper, and continued touring and making albums under Taking Back Sunday.

The exact reasoning for the split never fully surfaced, but rumors ran rampant, and whatever it was, it served as healthy writing material for each band’s respective post-split album.  Both TBS’s Where You Want To Be and Straylight Run’s self-titled LP were very good in their own right. It caused a debate amongst fans: are two TBS offshoot bands, better than one, original TBS?

It worked for a while but the material for both SR and TBS was drying up towards the late 2000s.  Many fans from the Tell All Your Friends era had acquired different musical tastes, and looking back on the beloved debut album, you couldn’t help but wonder, what could have been?

But in April 2010, all was made right in the TBS family.  Nolan and Cooper rejoined the band, and the original TAYF lineup was intact.  And now, in 2012, the band is rewarding fans with the TAYF 10th Anniversary tour.  Playing the 10 songs that started it all, to fans that still know all the words, and some of them, seeing the original band perform together, finally, for the first time.

After fellow New York rock journeymen, Bayside, gave an energetic opening performance, Taking Back Sunday kicked off their set with “What it Feels Like to be a Ghost?”—notifying the crowd that TAYF will be the second part of the show.  It was still an enthusiastic start, and Lazzara got the crowd pumped with his trademark mic swinging.  The appropriately titled “Decade Under the Influence” got the sing-along started early, and even though people came out for TAYF, the Where You Want To Be lead single has been a live favorite for years.  You really have to give it up to Lazzara and company for still coming through with a solid sophomore album back in 2004, amidst the turmoil of the band split.

“Liar” and “MakeDamnSure” were arena-ready anthems played off of the commercially successful Louder Now.  Lazzara, who is no stranger to concert eccentricities, livened up the still unfamiliar recent album single “El Paso” by stage diving, and then continuing a charge deep into the crowd, all while dragging the mic chord along with him.  It went down a few feet from me.  So awesome.

The band exited after the initial eight songs, and then reappeared to tear through the debut album.  The opening riffs of ”You Know How I Do” got the chills started, and brought everyone together  in unison on the anthem chorus, “WE WON’T STAND FOR HAZY EYES ANYMORE.”

“Bike Scene” included an extended pause before the song’s climatic, “You’ve got me—” and all it did was bottle up energy, paving way for a harder finish.  “Cute without the E” shut Turner Hall down, launched a noticeable, but nostalgic-driven mosh pit, and, it’s safe to say, knowing the words to the breakout hit was a prerequisite to buying a ticket for the show.

The ode to the power of friendship, “There’s No “I” Team,” took on a new meaning with Lazzara and Nolan being able to sing it together again on the same stage.  “Great Romances of the 20th Century” was pure fun; I still envision the timeless “talking on the phone” video when I hear it.

Lazzara introduced “Ghost Man on Third” as the first ballad-type song the band had written.  “Timberwolves at New Jersey” and “The Blue Channel” brought the fist pumping back in full force.  “You’re So Last Summer” is still a live show regular for TBS, with Lazzara known for free styling or altering a few lyrics, although it seemed he sang it close to the album version this time around.

“Head Club,” the final song on TAYF, began with Lazzara explaining the opening which has drummer O’Connell doing “the sickest solo ever when you’re 18 years old… (correcting) 17 years old.”

The band didn’t do a typical encore, stating instead they were going straight into a couple of TAYF-era songs after they finished performing the album.  Even casual fans I think knew what was in store.  The first was the TBS mega-ballad “Your Own Disaster.”  It was quite the treat, because the song rarely gets played live, and when it does, it’s Lazzara solo with an acoustic guitar, and a bunch of jerks in the crowd talking over it.  But tonight the full band went all out with it, and the pinnacle overlapping lyrics were delivered by both Nolan and Lazzara, as they were meant to be.

The even more elusive “The Ballad of Sal Villanueva” closed out the show with a punch.  Lazzara again gave some background on the track, stating they didn’t play the song often because 1) the band split up and 2) he had got a call from his high school girlfriend saying the song was mean, and could they stop playing it.  Good stuff; it is a mean song, but oh, is it marvelous.

What a way to cap the show, what a way to celebrate 10 years.

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