Live Review: After more than two decades under the influence, Taking Back Sunday show Sydney how it’s done

Once upon a time, I really enjoyed Monday night shows. This was at a time when I was at uni without any real obligations. Now, I am a boring person with a desk job that gets up early for work five days a week. You’re probably thinking, why am I telling you this? There is a segue coming. You see, Taking Back Sunday played Sydney’s Metro Theatre on Monday night, and I was transported back to a time where I had no cares; even less so than I did when I was a full time uni student in class ten hours a week.Taking Back Sunday are currently in the country celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band. Having just played to a sold out crowd at UNIFY Gathering over the weekend, the New York five-piece went about delivering a dose of nostalgia to the Sydney crowd, as they played their Tell All Your Friends and Louder Now albums in full, as well as a select few tracks from their back catalogue.Opening the night were Brisbane locals Young Lions. Playing their brand of emo-punk, Young Lions delivered a polished, if only slightly confronting 30 minute set. Having previously toured with the likes of In Heart’s Wake, Hands Like Houses and Dream On Dreamer, it’s evident the four-piece know how to play live. While not exactly something I’d listen to regularly, it was clear the band are willing to embrace the true rock stereotypes of the past, noting they only do this for the fans; and not the money. Playing tracks from their three LPs, Young Lions got the small crowd ready for what was to come.

I was in year four when Taking Back Sunday released their debut album, Tell All Your Friends. At a time when most of my friends were probably listening to Nikki Webster and Usher, I was beginning to experience the world of alternative music. Mainly on the back of my older brother’s listening habits, Taking Back Sunday were one of the first bands this skinny, 130cm tall red-head embraced outside of the aforementioned pop acts and 1950s-80s classics my Dad played religiously at home. So to finally see them in an intimate setting like The Metro was kind of a big deal.

Beginning the night with Tell All Your Friends, the band was true to their word, playing it front-to-back, with every breakdown and sing-a-long you hear on the studio recording. Opening with “Bike Scene”, front man Adam Lazzara experimented with the vox as the rest of the band hit their straps super early. A notable stand out came, unsurprisingly, from their break out hit “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team)” as just about every phone in the venue had its video function enabled to capture what is actually a really great song. All emo-ness aside, the one thing you notice straight away about these ‘Greatest Hits’ tours is how well/ poor a song has aged. “Cute Without The E” has aged gracefully, despite the band now nearing forty and still singing about angsty teen relationships.

Obviously well versed in the art of stage banter, Lazzara on multiple occasions took the time to thank the crowd, tell a few stories about the band in its early years or just engage in chat with the rest of the band. Another thing he’s undoubtedly mastered is the art of the microphone swing. Every time he did it, it was effortless and completed with aplomb, just as he did on “Great Romances of the 20th Century”.

With the pit opening up on “Timberwolves of New Jersey”, the set was off to a killer start, before slowing if only momentarily for “The Blue Channel”. Explaining that the piano interlude was originally recorded at half pace before some last minute accidental mastering mistakes, “The Blue Channel” was played to its most true form. Despite “Cute Without The E” being the sentimental favourite for most of the crowd, the peak of Tell All Your Friends moment came from “You’re So Last Summer”. Bluntly, that last 90 seconds was reckless and every mid 2000s teens’ dream.

Closing out the first half of the set with “Head Club”, Lazzara took the time to introduce the rest of the band and just as swiftly moved into the Louder Now opener “What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?”. Now, I feel a lot of people will disagree with me here, but Louder Now is by far the best Taking Back Sunday album. You’re entitled to your opinion on the matter, but you’re wrong if you disagree with me. I will fight you over it (I really won’t; I’m still the same skinny red-head I was in 2002, just a little taller. Please don’t hurt me).

The relentless “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)” went absolute boonta over its closing thirty seconds, before peak Taking Back Sunday made an appearance, in the shape of “Makedamnsure”. Commenting that they’d grown accustomed to closing on the song, Lazzara joked that it was time to end the show (and based off that one track, I wouldn’t have minded).

The earnest and heartfelt “My Blue Heaven”, with the best closing minute of any TBS song proved to be a personal highlight for me as you really took in how truly tight the band are, even after all these years. The loose anarchy of “Spin” quickly followed “My Blue Heaven” before the night embraced its only acoustic moment. With Lazzara taking the guitar and harmonica for the only time on “Divine Intervention”, he took the time to talk about a relationship that centred on going to a local dog park way too much, watching dogs and having super grown up conversations (which honestly sounds like a pretty good deal).

Playing their own favourite song, “Miami” threw me back to year eight, before one of the last pits of the night opened up on “Error Operator”. Closing the main set on the cataclysmic “I’ll Let You Live”, the band powered on through to their encore (“I’m gonna be honest with ya’ll. We’re gonna play a couple more songs and then get out of here”).

Playing a four song encore, it was nice to experience a couple tracks off their sophomore album, Where You Want To Be. The brilliant “This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)” was a nice touch before they closed on “A Decade Under The Influence”. The sentiments of this review and reviewer were matched almost word for word by Lazzara as he spoke about being thankful to have the chance to experience the night with everyone in that room; not only because these songs mean so much to so many people, but also that everyone in that room grew up together, experiencing the same things and relating to the same problems and scenarios. It’s those ‘nawwww’ moments that really put into perspective how much the music of your youth shapes you as an adult.

So thanks to Taking Back Sunday for playing a show to a room full of people on a Monday night. Sure I had to go to work on the back of five hours sleep, and tolerate meandering and meaningless chat from the people in the next office, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If only I could tell 10 year old me this.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Taking Back Sunday conclude their Australian tour this week at the following dates:

The Triffid, Brisbane: January 16th 2019
The Triffid, Brisbane: Janaury 17th 2019.

This reviewer attended the first Sydney show at the Metro Theatre on Monday January 14th.

Photo by Natalie Escobedo.

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