In my previous TBS/EOTC blog, I described the trials endured before the show, and now I’ll get to the real meat (soy, of course) of the concert experience, the performances themselves. So, let me set the scene for you again: it is December 12th and the show is the Louisville, Kentucky stop on Taking Back Sunday’s winter tour with Envy on the Coast.
First on the bill was a local band, Frontier(s), which also happens to be the title of disastrous French horror film I was recently hoodwinked into viewing- that the names are connected, I am unsure. The set-up time prior to their performance seemed to drag on forever, probably because it did. For whatever reason- it may have been that the crowd was let in too early or that the venue was having technical difficulties, or a member of Frontier(s) was late- there was an unusually long wait before the first band began playing. And the crowd felt it. Impatience was the vibe among fans as the locals performed; the mood wasn’t set well from the beginning. Polite clapping and minimal movement was the only response the band rose from the still semi-frozen human conglomeration. That is, until the front man finally started talking to us and showing his hometown pride, which all the locals appreciated greatly. The musical performance didn’t warrant as much excitement. The vocals were hardly audible, and I found myself squinting and trying to read the singer’s lips as a way to amuse myself during their playing. The band may have been good in another setting; one where the sound quality was better, and where I couldn’t uncomfortably sense the lack of reaction from the crowd behind me.
The feeling of the crowd’s lacking vanished almost immediately after Frontier(s) left the stage. The pushing started and the excitement level grew perceptibly for Envy on the Coast, one band closer to the headliner and –for some- the very band they came to see. The two boys behind my friend and me were especially excited- this would be fun.
I think it was last year that I placed an Envy on the Coast CD on my Christmas list after having seen a single video by them- I was impressed then and was prepared to be impressed again even without ever having gotten that CD. And the band certainly exceeded my expectations. Unlike the band before them, their vocals were clear and crisp as they began their set with breath-taking vocal harmonies of the keyboardist/ guitarist and the lead-singer. It sounded like the smooth blended voice of two R&B singers until the music started and things got rough, but in a good way, of course. With harshly defined rhythms, it was easy for this band to get the crowd moving within the first song and keep the crowd moving until the end. They were impressive as ever, more impressive than they were when I saw that music video. It was fascinating to watch the dread-locked singer’s strange facial expressions and peculiar swaying movements that all seemed to match the music perfectly—all these peculiarities occurred while, as is signature for the singer, his shoes were M.I.A. Have a foot-fetish? Envy on the Coast is the band to see. I give them an A+ on their performance, for sure. I forgot for brief flashes during their set that I was even anticipating one of my favorite bands to play after them- the perfect opening band can make one anticipate their next song rather than the next band, and they were able to do this for me.
I was still excited when their set ended and Taking Back Sunday would soon be taking the stage.
But my mind was filled with something other than “OMGOMGOMGOMG!” before their set this time. This time around, things were different. Fred Mascherino, former guitarist and co-vocalist of the band had quit late last year to pursue his solo project, The Color Fred. The last time I saw TBS live, I stood directly in front of Fred, and got to experience his excellence in crowd-interaction. How would it be different this time? What would new guitarist Matt Fazzi bring to the band? What would those new songs the band was rumored to be playing on this tour sound like with the changes in the band? I was about to find out.
Photo by Ryan Russell
The room went black and the crowd cheered, but the band didn’t immediately walk out. I hate being teased so, but that's what happened before TBS came out with the room prematurely darkened and Muse playing as loudly as systems would allow. The crowd compressed and released over and over in anticipation. I love that feeling- it’s like we’re all a part of one organism that happens to have a breathing problem and must struggle. Okay, that doesn’t sound that pleasant—it probably wouldn’t seem pleasant if I told you that I like the way my ribcage gets squished against barricades under the weight of hundreds of people’s pushing, either, but I’m avoiding the point and babbling now.
Anyway, Taking Back Sunday’s performance was, indeed, different this time around. Fred was missing, but there was no noticeable gap where he used to be. Fazzi filled in well, though – I sensed- timidly, but what was not filled was what I like to call the “frontlines” of the stage. Generally, there is a line of three band members at the front of the stage- a guitarist, a singer, and another guitarist, sometimes four if there is a brave bassist. The drummer, of course, is stationary and tends to be set back on the stage, but the “frontline” for this performance was quite different. Fazzi stood at the front with his mic and singer Adam Lazzara wandered everywhere. Bassist Matt Rubano stayed back near the drum kit with guitarist Eddie Reyes. They paid only the occasional visit to the “frontline.” Adam, however, stayed at the front and in a squatting position there for a vast majority of the performance.
Adam’s low-to-the ground (or stage, rather) positioning was amazing for those of us in the front who were at near face-to-face level with him the entire time as he sang and could look each of us in the eye as he did so, but I cannot imagine the view was quite as good from farther back in the crowd. The flailing hands of those in the front of the crowd, I’m sure, would be enough to completely block the view of those in the back of the crowd. But Adam’s being at our level brought an amazing level of intimacy to the show that was the most striking and memorable thing about it for me. Frequently, he would take out his in-ear monitors to hear what was being said to him by audience members. At one point, he asked a girl in the front to extend her arm so he could see her tattoo in the middle of a song, and answered the many of the heckles of playfully teasing fans.
He spoke playfully of his gaining weight, saying he needed to get his “hips right,” saying the boys were probably disappointed, “I bet you’re the guys who flat-iron your hair, though. Ooohhhh.”
”You do too!,” a random voice accused from somewhere in the crowd.
Hearing this, Adam responded with a story about his wife’s telling him he could no longer straighten his hair: “And I was like, ‘Okay, baby, that’s cool; whatever you say.’ She won that argument, like most arguments…”
The crowd was treated to more of Adam’s humorous and sometimes long-winded stories throughout the show as well as other fun quirks, such as; going into a Beyonce song at a breakdown in a TBS song as well as breaking out the old, “You down with O.P.P?” Apparently, we were the first crowd of the tour to respond with a resounding, “Yea, you know me!”
Taking Back Sunday’s set was fierce, fast, and unrelenting. If they did a slow song, I do not remember it, because the performance was so energetic. The only downtimes in the set were the points when the audience paid close attention to cover of a Tom Petty song, and to the brand new songs to which the band treated us. Two of the songs were upbeat: the title track of their upcoming CD, “New Again” and another called “Catholic Knees,” and one was a slow, moving song entitled “Everything Must Go.” One of the most memorable moments of the set came at the conclusion of “Everything Must Go”. As the song ended, most of the band members had fallen to a kneeling position on the stage. Adam, who was hovering at the very edge of the stage, dropped his head and covered it with his hands as if seeking shelter from a tornado, gripped his hair and weakly let his microphone drop with a soft thud against the front of the stage. Something about that moment nearly brought me to tears.
The new songs did have a different sound, a more refined sound than “old TBS,” but were good nonetheless, and I cannot wait until “New Again” comes out, and I can hear them recorded.
If you haven’t seen TBS live, I highly recommend you do so. You may have missed the eras of both John Nolan and Fred Mascherino, but –from this show- I could sense a new, great era in the life of Taking Back Sunday that will be just as exciting. I’m ready for them to be new again! Eh em… Sorry for the cheesiness. You can catch TBS at Bamboozle this year, or if you’re fortunate enough to be European, the band will be on your side of the pond in early spring.
“New Again” is set for release later this year.
Click here to advance to Part Three