As I entered into the photo pit Friday night to see the legendary Taking Back Sunday, the bouncer warned, “Be careful. It might get rough in there.” Please. I’d been slammed against the barricade by fans engrossed in scream-singing TBS lyrics dozens of times before, and I’d loved every minute. Tonight, though, I was in the photo pit on the other side of that barrier, which gave me a much different perspective on a band I’ve loved for over a decade.

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The men of Taking Back Sunday sauntered onstage like they’d done this a thousand times before. Guitarist John Nolan set his plastic cup of beer down and frontman Adam Lazzara gave the crowd a smile of familiarity, seemingly used to being greeted by thousands of screams. The explosive “Flicker, Fade” began the routine evening for Taking Back Sunday, powered by the nostalgia-fueled scream/sing-alongs of fans.

The twenty-one song set included tracks spanning the band’s six-album discography, with a heavy emphasis on their earlier material, including such classics as “Number Five With A Bullet” and “You’re So Last Summer.” Seeing a band whose debut album came out over a decade ago singing the emotional songs they wrote as teens can be odd, but it wasn’t the lyrics that were off. It was the band themselves.

Lazarra was working overtime to encapsulate his well-established rock star swagger with plenty of mic swinging and shuffling across the stage through “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)” and “Stood A Chance,” but his minimal early attempts at banter seemed half-hearted. Nolan’s overlapping vocals were present but not as urgent as they were when I’d seen Taking Back Sunday before, and the wide-eyed energy that comes with newer bands playing Los Angeles was absent (understandably, perhaps, given Taking Back Sunday’s long and storied career).

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Just when I thought it was time to throw in the towel on this performance, I traveled to the back of the crowded Palladium and gained a new perspective. Watching thousands scream, “I got the mic and you got the mosh pit,” made me realize that Taking Back Sunday is allowed to get older and present a different show. Lazzara denied being a role model in a recent interview with me and reasoned that music was all he knew how to do, so why stop now? The feeling I got square in the chest while watching him wail “I got it bad!” to end “A Decade Under The Influence” and hit the sky-high notes in “Spin” helped me finally understand the frontman’s new image.

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When Taking Back Sunday played newer songs, typically a downer moment for long-time fans of a band, they worked. Lazzara took a personal moment to introduce “Better Homes and Gardens” with a speech about his “strange decisions that continue to this day, Lord knows why,” nodding to his recent DWI. “Those decisions led me to a very bad part of my time, and when I wrote this song, I didn’t want to have to sing it. But singing it every night has helped me tremendously, and I hope it does the same for you.” Flames then engulfed the screens behind the band as they performed the song, and while the delivery of the speech felt routine, the emotions behind the words seemed genuine.

The encore began with “Call Me In The Morning” as Lazzara explained, “We recorded this song two blocks away,” before breaking out his acoustic guitar. “Cute With The E (Cut From The Team)” and “MakeDamnSure” closed the evening, inciting the most pits and crowd sing-alongs that are synonymous with Taking Back Sunday shows.

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Taking Back Sunday is not the same band they were in 2002 nor should they be. They’re not as angry (the tour was promoting their latest album, Happiness Is…, after all). These men are parents now, with kids, houses, and much bigger problems than those that inspired the angst-filled songs of their early catalog, but they delivered exactly what fans wanted to hear: the dual vocals, borderline screams, and one liners that perfectly encapsulate the TBS brand of heartbreak.

Taking Back Sunday isn’t supposed to be under a microscope or held up as the perfect example of powerful, emotional rock music (although they certainly are). They are part of a larger movement of speaking honestly about what you’re going through with as much passion as you feel, and that’s what they did during their performance at The Palladium Friday night.

For more information on Taking Back Sunday:

Official Website
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