Today you’re getting a double dose of Taking Back Sunday. I saw them last week for a headline show at Troxy, and whilst I was feeling nostalgic about my teenage years this weekend, I decided to dig out one of my old shirts of theirs to wear for today’s #MerchMonday post too.
I can’t tell you where or when I got it, most likely 2004 when I first started to go to shows. What I can tell you is I’m apparently not quite as skinny as I was at the tender age of sixteen – but I’ve managed to squeeze into it nonetheless. Pink is a rather bold colour choice for anyone who knows me – my wardrobe is generally fifty shades of black.So yes, considering my emo roots, it’s a little on the bright side… But I guess there’s a skull on it, so it balances out a little. It’s safe to say though that Taking Back Sunday were a big part of my teens. A band who always featured heavily on all my mix CDs, with their hard-hitting (not so subtle) lyrics usually found scribbled over my Converse or used as MSN Messenger screen names.
I’ve seen them play multiple times over the years by now, but tonight was special as it was the London show of their 20th anniversary tour (I know, TWENTY). It had been revealed they’d be playing their debut album, Tell All Your Friends in full too, so yes, despite being out the night before at State Champs, this was not a gig I intended on missing. They were also playing at Troxy, a beautiful venue in East London which was actually built originally as a cinema back in the 1930s. Rather different to the likes of Camden Underworld I’d been to the night before, it’s a very fancy Art Deco building and almost too nice to be wearing my Vans in. I always get a good view (despite being only 5’4″) there too, and whilst it has a capacity of 3000 it still feels like a pretty intimate space. So off I went, ready for a trip down memory lane back to the early 00s when I first discovered emo.
The early part of the packed 90 minute set was as we’d expected, Tell All Your Friends in full. Taking Back Sunday’s first, and arguably most renowned album (and one of my favourites from my youth). Despite the band first starting out back in 1999, it wasn’t until this album came out in 2002 that they’d start to get recognition – and little did they know, it would then go on to become one of the most influential releases from this genre. An album with underlying themes of betrayal, broken hearts and even more broken friendships… It’s one that many still talk about to this day. As a result, it was one of the main reasons people had come out to this show – it hadn’t been played in full before, so a great opportunity for some of their oldest fans to hear it live in its entirety. They kicked things off with You Know How I Do (obviously), with the crowd immediately singing along full-pelt. It was fun to hear the crowd’s varying approaches to the band’s well-known style of dual vocals – some switching between Lazzara and Nolan’s parts, others (like myself), going for a mix of both in attempt to try and cover every lyric. But regardless of which people went for,there was no question that the entire room was filled with some very happy fans.
Lazzara greeted the room and revealed they’d taken the year off from “The hustle and the bustle” in order to just tour together and celebrate the last twenty years of being a band. Almost undetectable once he starts singing, his southern drawl when speaking almost makes you forget the band itself are actually from Long Island. As they continued through the album, Lazzara also started telling anecdotes between songs, giving fans the opportunity to hear a little more about how their first album had originally come together. We heard of how Nolan (affectionately nicknamed “John from work”) and he had lived together at the time they were writing it. He joked of how they couldn’t afford cable TV at the time, so used to just watch the preview channels late at night – also using them as inspiration for song titles. Also mentioned was that Lazzara didn’t actually realise that Timberwolves were a basketball team until five years after TAYF came out, and how the composition of the intro from The Blue Channel was originally recorded at a much slower tempo.
At points it almost felt like a kind of religious sermon, his Catholic background somewhat coming through. But whilst some of the crowd got slightly impatient waiting for the next songs, causing Lazzara to say, “Just one more, I promise!” It’s clear he was enjoying the chance to reminisce himself and also interact with the crowd too. But talking aside, when You’re So Last Summer kicked in, it was clear to see why Lazzara is still one of the most well-known front-men in the scene to this day. Whilst the band have been through many line-up changes over the years (something that was omitted from story-time), it’s hard to imagine Taking Back Sunday without him. It’s almost impossible now to think that he was first brought into the band as a bassist -no-doubt things would have been very different without him stood centre stage. His signature mic swinging is hypnotic to watch, almost second nature now after so many years of perfecting it.
After finishing up with Head Club, they then moved onto their next albums, performing a mix of all their biggest tracks from Where You Want To Be and Louder Now – the albums which went on to cement them as one of the biggest names in the genre. The likes of A Decade Under The Influence, Liar (It Takes One To Know One), What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost? all made the list. And unexpectedly, This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know), a song openly admitted by Lazarra they have not played for years as he “didn’t care too much for it.” I was half expecting them to then move on to their next albums (Happiness Is… / New Again), but these seemed to be skipped over entirely… Jumping instead straight to their more notable hits from Tidal Wave. I was secretly rather happy about this, as I’m personally guilty of missing out on these middle albums entirely – but I guess perhaps I’m not the only one to have done this based on their decision to omit them. All Ready To Go, their most recent release was included, but ultimately of the 21 songs they played, only three were post Louder Now… Which I guess sums up how important a role those first few albums played in getting them to where they are today.
They concluded the evening with one of their biggest ever singles, MakeDamnSure. I have no doubt Lazarra would have carried on longer if he could, but he declared “If we don’t finish after this song we’re going to be in a lot of trouble”. Overall, the set was a perfect celebration of their older material, and undeniably every older fan’s idea of a good time going back to this particular era. As for what’s next for Taking Back Sunday, that was one thing Lazarra didn’t speak of. But whilst there’s no mention of their future, I guess for now, they’re just taking this year to celebrate where it all started…
There’s a playlist of the set here if anyone fancies reminiscing themselves today (or practicing their dual vocals). I’ve got a bit of a break from gigging for now, so will be taking a well deserved rest. But I’ll still be continuing with #MerchMonday posts, so stay tuned.