Taking Back Sunday w/Thursday
Best Buy Theater
Sunday, July 17
Better than: Breaking up.
The Best Buy Theater seems hermetically sealed from Times Square—to enter it is to completely remove yourself from the heat, which, in July, introduces stasis to the blood. You are rewarded inside with a new cool existence in a frozen tube. Inside there is lighting like the inside of an addict brain, muted but forceful. Here a band like Thursday can half-work: their new record, No Devolución, is mixed so that the songs seem mute sketches of themselves, courting the high frequencies while also displacing bass and therefore shape and meat. To explain it is to try to pin superlatives to a half-forgotten thing in another room. Mid-set, singer Geoff Rickly celebrated its success in the modern terms of the music business—”It’s No. 3 on Metacritic.”
Set against their older work—a kind of forceful post-hardcore with real and earnest allusions to A Silver Mt. Zion—the songs from No Devolución were assigned a pulse, or at least to an environment of muscle. The mix—a flat beam of guitar, sometimes accompanied by the complete loud arc of a vocal—should have magnified the new, distant Thursday songs. But even live and invigorated, the new songs imparted a distance. Members of the crowd were visibly displaced, locked in a confusion of prepared responses. Who can clap or scream in a vacuum?
Taking Back Sunday arrived on stage with the same lineup that produced 2002’s emo blueprint Tell All Your Friends, including guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper. There was the strange yet comfortable spirit of reunion about the whole enterprise. “We lost track of one another for a while,” said singer Adam Lazzara, seeming to hope to come out of this nostalgic arrangement renewed. “It was pretty much my fault.” Nolan and Cooper left the band in 2003 to record as Straylight Run; by 2010, drummer Mark O’Connell had tired of his band’s revolving door for guitarists and bassists, describing the intervening time as “seven years of bullshit” in an interview with Alternative Press. “I was like, ‘Either John and Shaun are coming back or I’m not doing another album,’ ” he told AP. “I didn’t give a shit. It wasn’t fun.”
So the reinvigorated Taking Back Sunday played a Straylight Run song, “Existentialism on Prom Night.” “I’m so proud to be a part of this song,” Lazzara said. It’s a little too convenient, a little too neat, as if to make us think some circle has been arranged and completed. Regardless, there are at least two Straylight Run songs that can be read against Taking Back Sunday (“Sympathy for the Martyr” and “Take it to Manhattan,” the chorus of the latter being, “I’ve had enough of all of these songs of self-imposed unhappiness”) and one that deals nakedly with the breakup (“A Slow Descent”). In that realm, where sad and angry things were transmitted years later and through another band, there’s a glint of sweetness to this adoption.
Lazzara, unfortunately, couldn’t sing much of the song, or much of the set—he was hampered by a sprained ankle, and his vocals have lost their pivot live. It didn’t matter, really. Taking Back Sunday is the sort of band where the communion is the focus. There was a delirium in the air when Lazzara launched himself into the crowd in the seated area of the theater, all to sing “There’s No ‘I’ in Team” and “Cute without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team).” The audience helped. The audience did most of the work. Lazzara held the microphone. They provided where he lacked, and vice versa.
Overheard: “The best band to play Bamboozle this year was fucking Boyz II Men.”—dude wearing a Linkin Park shirt, who later spoke of witnessing Zebrahead in some arena before time.
Random notebook dump: “The importance of being from New Jersey.” Written during Thursday’s set. They were about to play a song called “Turnpike Divides.”
Random notebook dump II: “Taking Back Sunday just covered Earth Crisis for five seconds.” Which happened. They played “Firestorm” after introducing Lazzara. Two men to my right were so astonished that they seemed to have made all of the room in their eyes for it. “I can’t believe that just fucking happened,” one said. “The people who are watching us must think we’re fucking crazy.”
Fast to the End
For the Workforce, Drowning
Magnets Caught in the Metal Heart
Understanding in a Car Crash
Sparks Against the Sun
Jet Black New Year
Taking Back Sunday:
You Know How I Do
Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
Faith (When I Let You Down)
One-Eighty by Summer
You Got Me
Timberwolves at New Jersey
Existentialism on Prom Night (Straylight Run cover)
What’s it Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
A Decade Under the Influence
You’re So Last Summer
This is All Now
There’s No ‘I’ in Team
Cute without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)