Taking Back Sunday at Government Center

It’s hard to turn down a free concert, even if that means watching Taking Back Sunday. Especially considering the underlying theme o’ this blog.

I’ve never been entirely “in” to TBS. Just something about them never really caught me, even though I was their prime target when they first hit it big. I can understand the positives and the negatives for and against the band, and in most ways they really epitomize the 3rd wave version of emo that was being cranked out five some years ago. Dashboard was the band on every journalist’s lisps, but TBS was the band like all the other emo bands; their lyrics and music was thoroughly average. Average as in they could easily fit in the middle of a set by any guitar-oriented emo band coming out in that period of time… they sounded just like everyone else and vice versa. Not too many folks took to the acoustic troubadeour style in the emo realm, and in that TBS really are representative of the then-hottest word in the music world.

Anyway, back to Friday night, where TBS were set to play at Boston’s Government Center.

I get there a little after 9, which was when TBS were supposed to go on, only to find some random metal band, Crooked X, doing a really terrible cover of “Another Brick In The Wall” that allowed them to show off their wicketd skillzzzz. ZZZ is more like it. Boring and more than a little trite, and they managed to pack in all the rock’N’roll stereotypes into a solid ten minute perfomance of the song (seriously, how many times do you have to introduce every band member while playing the same riff for five minutes and declaring your love for the audience?) Then some random dude from MTV2 (or some MTV offshoot) did his whole routine of pumping up the audience and shouting one of the most redundant questions that there is: “who likes free stuff?!?!” (ans: everyone) …and it’s more like free advertising, w/free t-shirts with some odd company logo on it (who can keep up these days) while a big Verizon sign stood monolithically in the background.

In the half hour it took to set up, people were busy texting to the big Verizon screen next to the stage, while every once in a while someone would come onstage in order to direct a lost kid to their guardian or cousin for the show. It’s really nice to know that, even with all the mass advertisement and corporate machismo, kids of all ages are able to see what is a fairley big and well known band. And for free. Unfortunately, at several points, many in the crowd would shout the name of the lost kid in a taunting manner… as if they were never some lost confused kid in a crowd.

Anyway, half an hour later and the band went on, with what’s probably 4 new band members. I’d seen TBS perform in that very spot two summers ago, and I distinctly remember a bunch of completely different musicians, save the original guitarist (Eddie Reyes) and frontman (Adam Lazzara). It turns out they’ve now got a bit of a history for a revolving cast of musicians, and it’s good to see they’ve got a sense of humor about it with selling “I Used To Be In Taking Back Sunday” t-shirts for $20.

ALL IT TAKES IS $20 TO HAVE BEEN IN TAKING BACK SUNDAY. ($15.99 online + tax + shipping)

And get a nice yellow t-shirt to boot.

Anyway, they played a couple of new tunes to start out, which seem kinda glossed over radio-pop that sort of resemble their previous material, but in a washed up manner. With the sound cutting in and out, and three guitarists, and Lazzara’s vocal rarely audible for some reason or another, it seemed kinda… well, meh. Meh is the perfect describing word.

Then they launched into some of their older material. And there was a difference. Back in the day, I would always wonder at how they were on the radio. Crammed between the average Creed and circa-90s Green Day song, it would focus on how odd they sounded on the radio. It literally sounded like a revolution was happening, that musical change was occuring on corporate radio. Lazzara’s vocals are the least bit typical of anything you could hear on the radio – neither particularly strong or confident, and yes a bit whiny. And the lyrics crammed every word viable into a short amount of space. And the chug-a-lug of the songs mixed in with these blasts of noise around the chorus, even given what grunge did, so odd.

And yet I forgot how damn catchy they are. TBS now aren’t nearly as catchy now, their lyrics are even more bland, etc etc etc. But man, is there this blast that just hits you and it’s unexpected, and the vocal harmonies. You don’t expect it. Especially today, when they’ve gotten so formulaic.

I left a couple of songs after “A Decade Under The Influence,” because there was nothing more I really needed to see. The band was slopy and a bit of a shadow of what they once were. Even in that one moment, I could somehow, somehow overlook the malintented lyrics and overall bland output of the band recently. But, it was a solid few minutes, and that’s all I could ask for from that band and on a Friday when there really wasn’t much going on at 9:30. Backhanded compliment? Perhaps. But it might be the best I could ever give ’em. It could be the nostalgia speaking (but really, I’m not terribly nostalgic for high school), but those few minutes were O-KAY.


4 responses to “Taking Back Sunday at Government Center

  1. First paragraph really just doesn’t ‘sink in to me’ (oh god) like the rest of the post. They certainly did embody what the 3rd wave was all about, but at the same time, i can’t agree that they “sounded just like everyone else and vice versa”. The sounded like Northstar at an even bigger mall. And i agree with you, it was damn catchy. But come on, who else actually sounded like them when you think about it? The teenage girl in me (who sadly bought that shirt on ebay this morning) would love to know ;]

    • I can dig that, and I understand what you mean. The statement in the first paragraph was very much a generalization: TBS weren’t a blueprint that everyone else copied, but represented an ephemera for what similar types of bands were doing then. No one really had the same half-spoken wail as Lazzara or executed the exact same compositions, but the musical elements retain a semblance of similarity from one moment to the next. Be it Brand New (who TBS had something of a Long Island rivalry with, but I’m gonna hand Brand New the “winner’s” trophy considering how they’ve managed to excel and grow as musicians since the early part of the decade), Thrice, Finch, The Used, Thursday, etc etc, TBS represent a sort of middle-of-the-line stasis for the kind of arpeggiated guitar melodies drenched in emocore post-hardcore ennui and boiled over with a healthy dose of obtuse, lovelorn lyrics.

      True, not every emo band in the 3rd wave was like that. In fact, many of them weren’t. But, when it comes to emo, it becomes a case where the exception becomes the rule; when a few distinct bands have similar elements that tie them closer than the others, it’s representitive of the trend/genre/culture as a whole. Which is why I said they represent that ideal to the nth degree.

      I don’t necessarily agree with that – in fact much of this blog and the forthcoming book is created to negate that idea. But to ignore that concept outright would be shameful; after all, that’s what a majority of folks perceived it to be. And even though a majority of those acts that have been clumped together to represent the mass of emo bands are screamo, and even though Thursday pay tribute to the politically minded punks, and even though Finch was very much a one-hit wonder and Brand New have turned into a reclusive group, that is what a majority of the listening public pegged it all as.

      I know that there is more to what was happening to third wave emo at the time. Hell, even in the mainstream you have two difference of opinions in Dashboard and Jimmy Eat World (who were very much of the 2nd wave transplanted into the 3rd wave by default of success). And then there are the more undergound acts, be they Pedro The Lion, Cursive, The Appleseed Cast… even Sunny Day Real Estate before they broke up for a second time at the beginning of the 2000s. But, as bands representing an entire convoluted genre go, TBS offer the most solid example of what people consider a majority of the mid aughts 3rd wave emo acts to sound like, even if it isn’t a strict, by-the-books interpretation for every band.

      And, not gonna lie, that shirt is pretty sweet… though I can think of a few bands who’s name I’d rather have in TBS’s place…

      • Can’t argue with any of that Leor, you definitely hit the rusty old TBS nail on the head. Thanks for giving my small gripe the time of day it perhaps didn’t deserve.

        • No worries whatsoever Dan! Any thought you’d have that would make you go as far as to seek out some sort of answer or response is totally worth the time of day. And this one was inquisitive and good-intentioned (seriously, you should see some of the stuff people will angrily rant at me on this blog… but so goes the nature of the internet, right? I mean, how many posts have I written that complained about one thing or another, or random comments I’ve written that have lambasted the writer… but now I’m going on a tangent.) Thanks for speaking your mind and checking out my writing!

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