the used taking back sunday

I am nearing my three-year anniversary here in Los Angeles and consider myself fairly acclimated to the supremely cool, uniquely diverse music scene here in Southern California. Despite the multitude of concerts I’ve seen make the necessary stop in LA, however, Taking Back Sunday and The Used’s co-headlining show last Wednesday at the Hollywood Palladium was still able to jolt me out of my complacency and remind me why I love my city and writing about music in the first place. The combination of nostalgia for the two acts’ classic emo rock catalog and excitement for their latest music made for a stellar evening on Sunset Blvd.

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The expansive Palladium was packed for the first of the nationwide tour’s two sold-out nights in LA (the second is this Thursday, March 27th), and the crowd was buzzing as opener Tonight Alive‘s Jenna McDougall ended the supporting set with her soaring vocals. Bert McCracken, the mohawked, high-pitched vocalist that has carried The Used through six albums, ushered in the more aggressively rock half of the evening with the group’s new single, “Cry,” off Imaginary Enemy, due out April 1st.

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Through classics like “Buried Alive” and “In Your Eyes,” McCracken was a conductor leading an orchestra of crazed fans. While The Used has been performing for well over a decade, McCracken seemed in awe of the audience as he constantly raised his arms above his head, screaming back “Fuck yes!” to the cheering fans and explaining, “In one way or another, we all are the fucking Used. Thank you for letting us do what we love to do for fourteen years.”

“Pretty Handsome Awkward” and “Take It Away” were standouts, and the classic “Taste of Ink” ended in an a cappella sing along as McCracken and co. repeated “I’ll savor every moment of this,” a perfect way to summarize the attitudes of the headliners that evening. The raucous “Box Full of Sharp Objects” brought The Used’s set to an explosive end.

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As the most recent, poppy Taking Back Sunday single “Stood A Chance” began, frontman Adam Lazzara sauntered across the stage with the rock star confidence he has perfected over the band’s fifteen-year career. The original 2002 lineup that produced the now-classic Tell All Your Friends has been reunited since 2010, preserving the energy that fueled an album nearly every emo rock band cites as influential. I spoke with members of TBS earlier in the day about how they maintain that explosive energy, both in the recording studio and on stage.

“I think onstage we’re all kind of nuts,” bassist Shaun Cooper laughed. “It’s the five of us and it feels new every night. It’s sort of bizarre like that. It’s like Groundhog’s Day — ‘Oh, it’s another show’ — but it’s always so exciting because there’s so much energy.”

Drummer Mark O’Connell added, “It’s because we still love it and love what we’re doing, and we feel like what we’re doing is still good. To us, we are still putting out quality music.”

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“Timberwolves at New Jersey” and “What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost” had the crowd dancing, led by Lazzara swaggering from side to side and chucking the microphone the length of the stage in true Taking Back Sunday fashion.

While nostalgia fueled the sing alongs during “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)” and “Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team),” Taking Back Sunday affirms they don’t want to be a “nostalgia act.” Cooper explained, “We want the band to keep growing and evolving. A lot of people say, ‘You make me feel like a teenager again,’ and that’s cool, but we want to create new memories now. Come to the show now, and we can connect with you on that level, too, and keep growing. We want to keep moving forward.”

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Lazarra praised John Nolan (“Ladies and gentlemen, John Nolan!”), who provided overlapping vocals during newest singles “Beat Up Car” and “Flicker Flicker Fade” off Taking Back Sunday’s recent release Happiness Is. The emotional “Better Homes and Gardens” showed that Taking Back Sunday is still writing personal songs but with more mature themes now that the band members are dealing with decidedly more grown-up problems than they did when launching the group as teenagers.

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Lazzara expressed a child-like awe when talking to the audience, announcing, “Everybody here is so good looking!” and acknowledging that “this is something special tonight, this lineup.” The crowd overpowered Lazzara during one of my favorite tracks, “You’re So Last Summer,” screaming back, “If I’m just bad news, then you’re a liar!”

Cooper had earlier described how rewarding it was to watch fans sing along. “That is the dream come true right there,” he gushed. “It blows my mind every night…I don’t think I can put into words the emotions that swell up every night, how excited we all are. We all have families we would like to be home with, but that is a high that can’t be matched.”

The show closed with the electrifying “MakeDamnSure,” and Lazzara graciously thanked the audience for “for sticking with us throughout these years.”

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The after party was at the swanky, speakeasy-themed Hollywood bar No Vacancy, and the VIPs and press packed the second floor, clamoring over the open bar and reminiscing about the dynamic show. The members of Taking Back Sunday mingled with the Hollywood elite, and it was surreal watching Lazarra toast with his bandmates and throw back shots. I counted three hands on his shoulders, pulling his attention different ways, as groupies showered the bandmates with praise.

The celebratory atmosphere, rubbing elbows with rockstars, free drinks — Taking Back Sunday showed me that the same passion and energy that made me fall in love with their music a decade ago is still fueling a career that has and will continue to shape the emo rock genre for the foreseeable future. The Used and Taking Back Sunday have remained constants in an ever-changing music industry by releasing quality music, growing by their own standards and no one else’s, and I’d toast to that any day.

For more information on Taking Back Sunday:
Taking Back Sunday Website

For more information on The Used:
The Used Official Website