Friday, June 5, 2009

Taking Back Sunday concert review

photo by Rose Palmisano/OC Register
My review originally appeared at

Taking Back Sunday, Anberlin
Grove of Anaheim
June 3

Back in 2006, Taking Back Sunday co-headlined Long Beach Arena and nearly tore the roof off the place. It was an exhilarating concert, where singer Adam Lazzara was in total showman mode and the entire band gelled (check out special editions of gold-selling album “Louder Now” for a sample).

That wasn’t always the case during a sold out Grove gig on Wednesday night. Lazzara was surprisingly subdued, hardly the gregarious ball of energy I’d seen at the arena and subsequent “Louder” tour stops in San Bernardino and Devore. He even hid near the drum kit to sing into a vocoder and fiddle with an electronic gizmo a few times. Fortunately, bassist/backing vocalist Matt Rubano made up for it in the energy department.

Solid fourth effort “New Again,” which came out Tuesday, was produced by David Kahne (The Strokes, Sublime). It finds Taking Back Sunday adding ample harmonies, gang chants, Coldplay and U2-styled touches to its melodic post-hardcore sound. Lazzara even supplies some personal lyrics for a change.

In Anaheim, the Long Island, N.Y. quintet started off with the propulsive title track, the first of five fresh ones debuted live. Teenage and young adult-leaning fans in the front section delightfully moshed and crowd surfed throughout the 65-minute, 16-song set, but the most enthusiastic responses were reserved for emo tunes from 2002 debut “Tell All Your Friends” (an explosive “Cute Without the ‘E’,” the dynamic kiss off “You’re So Last Summer”).

Despite a dozen or so shows under his belt, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Fazzi still seems to be finding his footing onstage and the proceedings often felt incomplete as a result (a muted sound mix didn’t help). Fazzi replaced Fred Mascherino, who left to form The Color Fred and was sorely missed on such “Where You Want to Be” and “Louder Now” songs as “Liar” and “A Decade Under the Influence.”

The latter found Lazzara justifiably berating the annoying people rabidly taking video/photos as he leaned down over the audience: “put your cameras down and be here with me tonight.” Later on, he apologized and said, “it blows my mind that everybody spends so much time staring at computers, then you spend all this money to see us through an even smaller screen.”

Good point. Electronic devices have become so distracting that I wish they all had to be shut off upon entering a venue. Ranting aside, it was a mixed performance from Taking Back Sunday.

photo by Rose Palmisano/OC Register
Opening act Anberlin packed quite a wallop with their spiritual-tinged alternative rock. In a blazing 40-minute set, lanky leader Stephen Christian showed off an impressive vocal range (nailing a few sustained notes – not wails; there is a difference) and connected with the audience.

The Florida band prompted steady pogoing and plenty of arms raised in unison. Among the highlights: “The Resistance” (from last year’s major label breakthrough “New Surrender”), where three musicians pounded drums in unison, the poppy, keyboard-driven “Disappear,” a high energy cover of New Order’s “True Faith,” slowly mesmerizing “Dismantle Repair” - including a lyrical snatch of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love” - and current modern rock radio hit “Feel Good Drag.”

Taking Back Sunday at the Grove of Anaheim, June 3, 2009

Main set: New Again/You Know How I Do/Error: Operator/Set Phasers to Stun/Carpathia/One-Eighty By Summer/You’re So Last Summer/Swing/Liar/Cute Without the ‘E’(Cut From the Team)/Sink Into Me/A Decade Under the Influence/What’s it Feel Like to Be a Ghost 

Encore: Everything Must Go/Timberwolves at New Jersey/MakeDamnSure

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