Taking Back Sunday / Thursday - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Taking Back Sunday / Thursday

live in New York (2011)

live show

I timed my arrival to this show perfectly, even to give opener the New Regime a chance. In typical Taking Back Sunday fan fashion, the floor was already packed out, with a good part of the crowd staking out their spots for a band that wouldn't play for nearly another three hours. I had to deal with this when I saw Lifetime at Bamboozle in 2006, watching my beloved melodic hardcore heroes play to rows of disinterested concert patrons, so I knew what to expect here.

The New Regime is spearheaded by Ilan Rubin, who's probably best known for being the former drummer of LostProphets and doing a stint as Nine Inch Nails' touring drummer. Here he fronted a band that felt like a pretty typical pastiche of classic rock and modern alternative. Think the Dear Hunter, but without the theatrical elements and genre-hopping that makes their songs interesting. While the audience probably had their own reasons for acting disinterested, they reacted politely to Rubin's persistent requests for clap-alongs.

I was far more interested in seeing Colour Revolt, a relative stronghold in my tastes since I saw them support Brand New with a raucous and spastic set in May 2007. Performance-wise, they've mellowed considerably since then, concentrating more on creating a penetrating atmosphere with searing melodies and southern tinges. That was exactly what they did here, filling the Best Buy Theater with a haunting, shimmering sound. They started a bit early so they could play a longer set, adding a sloppier and snarling slant to "Our Names", and ending perfectly with the spine-chilling build of old favorite "Mattresses Underwater" and the jaunty bark of "8 Years", a practical cross between Fugazi and Why?. Reaction was sparse, but a few could be seen pointing and singing along at certain pinpoints around the audience.

Set list (7:44-8:15):

  1. Naked and Red
  2. Heartbeat
  3. Our Names
  4. Moses of the South
  5. The Cradle
  6. Mattresses Underwater
  7. 8 Years

A show pairing of Taking Back Sunday and Thursday might seem like nostalgia baiting to many, and in some ways it probably is. But having seen Thursday play Full Collapse twice in the span of a year and change, I was elated to hear some standouts played from their excellent new album, No Devolución–a better effort than 2009's Common Existence, and maybe even their best since 2003's War All the Time. The band provided a welcomed set (at least to me), favoring Devolución heavily but mixing in a few old fan favorites. Bro-pits opened up predictably for opener "Fast to the End", whose opening chug is signature Thursday, but saunters into a fluttering, hushed and tense composition that seems strange played as a soundtrack to playful, brute shoving. (Two distinct pits at both ends of the crowd would soon form, with the bigger and drunker taking stage right.)

Those less impressed with the album might be inclined to merely call it Thursday trying to be "artsy," and when the band played Cold War-era propaganda video on a backdrop during the beautiful, heartbreaking "No Answers", that probably didn't help. But I loved it, and that the band was playing more well-rehearsed and on-key than usual only added to the atmosphere. They weren't afraid to play with the material a bit, either–extending the verse-chorus transition in "No Answers", for instance. Emotional responses were predictably best en masse, however, with too-familiar anthems like "For the Workforce, Drowning" and "Understanding in a Car Crash".

Set list (8:34-9:42):
  1. Fast to the End
  2. For the Workforce, Drowning
  3. Counting 5-4-3-2-1
  4. Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart
  5. Understanding in a Car Crash
  6. No Answers
  7. Sparks Against the Sun
  8. Jet Black
  9. Turnpike Divides

Loud, loud cheers erupted in the sold-out theater when Taking Back Sunday took the stage. Professional, huge-sounding and candid per usual, the band packed 17 songs into an hour and change set halted only by an 11:00 curfew the act was quite vocal in complaining about. Beloved frontman Adam Lazzara hobbled about the stage with a sprain in his leg, but showed plenty of energy given the circumstances (and pulled a hilarious/awesome move we'll get to later). Granted, his snide requests to keep the cameras off seemed dickish; in an era of constant documentation, you can fight it futilely or find a way to benefit from it, and he seemed to choose the former.

A performance of "Existentialism on Prom Night", from guitarist/vocalist John Nolan's defunct band Straylight Run, was no surprise, given its inclusion on recent sets and tours. But it was still cool, with Lazzara and Nolan leading the vocal charge and the audience singing along in unison with its loud hooks.

They played four songs from the recent self-titled effort, which is mostly a sensible continuation from 2009's New Again (big, modern alt-pop-rock sounds) but an improved version thereof. Their big hooks and soaring anthems made sense in a venue like this, and they got impressive responses and cheers, too.

Other highlights included a hilariously extended pause before the breakdown in "Bike Scene"; Lazzara slipping in a couple lyrics from Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" at the end of "You're So Last Summer"; and the band playing a good 10 seconds of Earth Crisis' "Firestorm" during banter before "This Is All Now" (by this point a cliché for non-hardcore bands-influenced-by-hardcore to jokingly play), Lazzara even singing a full few lines.

Tell All Your Friends got the most love, naturally, with six songs played, and I always wonder if any fan would have legitimate complaints. It might be one of the band's worst efforts lyrically, but it's Taking Back Sunday informed best by emotional punk and hardcore, musically alive and at times brilliantly raw. Translating it to the scope of a 2100-capacity theater should seem weird, but they do it well.

Also, Lazzara erased any disconnect between himself and the audience when he decided, what the hell, he'd join the audience midway through "This Is All Now". He scaled the elevated handrail on the floor and traveled back further and further, moving through a mushy swarm of adoring fans all the way up to the seated section. A mob (and polo'd bouncers) followed him all the way, and he'd remain there for the rest of the set. Figures a dude from North Carolina would try and bring the Long Island hardcore vibe to one of NYC's larger concert venues. (A Plain Jane attendee bluntly informing me I "shouldn't jump on people" reminded me of my environment proper, the not-so-subtle distinctions between "concert" and "show" clearly at play.) While it had to have pissed off venue staff and security, didn't anyone think something was up when noticing, like, a 300-foot microphone cord among the band's gear? It was funny and bizarre to see a band playing songs "together" with their singer a hundred yards away, fans grabbing Lazzara, ruffling his hair and screaming classic lines from "There's No 'I' in Team" and the monstrous "Cute Without the 'E'" into the mic. The band played a long, long version of "Cute"'s bridge so Lazzara could try and get back on stage ("Hey John. Just let this part happen for a little. I got a long way to come back."), but he gave up before he even reached the floor itself from the elevated midsection of the venue. When the closing sing-along came, confetti sprayed the audience and the end was nigh.

Set list (9:42-11:00):
  1. El Paso
  2. MakeDamnSure
  3. You Know How I Do
  4. Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
  5. Faith (When I Let You Down)
  6. Bike Scene [with extended pause]
  7. One-Eighty by Summer
  8. Error Operator
  9. You Got Me
  10. Timberwolves at New Jersey
  11. What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
  12. A Decade Under the Influence
  13. You're So Last Summer
  14. This Is All Now
  15. There's No "I" in Team
  16. Cute Without the "E" (Cut from the Team)