• Review

Taking Back Sunday: No Nostalgia

Photo by Jon Medina Photography

I honestly thought the highlight of the night was going to be getting to see Every Time I Die play new tracks from Low Teens, one of the best heavy albums to come out in the past half-decade and a personal favorite album from last year. I hadn’t actively listened to Taking Back Sunday for probably that whole half decade or so, much to my chagrin. It’s with no regret that I can say I was mistaken, though, and that Taking Back Sunday have aged gracefully, energetically, and without irony. It was likely a set I won’t forget anytime soon.

“Don’t wanna go, don’t wanna go, don’t want to leave the South!”

If I’m upset about anything, it’s missing a majority of All Get Out’s opening set. I’ve been a fan for years, but haven’t had the opportunity to see them live. I did the fashionably late thing, showing up when the show started instead of when doors open (mostly out of necessity - adult life and all), and was surprised to see the line at Bogart’s reaching almost the end of the block. 15 minutes later, after having stood at the ticket booth behind two individuals who… well, we’ll just say it was 15 minutes of my existence I’m actually aggravated about losing… I jumped in line for another 15-minute wait. Why all the exposition? I did this instead of seeing a band I was genuinely excited to see for the first time. Is it partially my fault? Maybe, but the line being what it was an hour after doors open seems a bit extreme. The 3 songs I caught were great, even if the crowd itself wasn’t quite on board. I wish I had more to report. For now, just do yourself a favor and check out their album The Season.

“I want oblivion all the time.”

Every Time I Die is a band that you either get and love, or get and absolutely despise. And I sincerely appreciate that about them. They’re polarizing for a variety of reasons - their southern rock riffery amidst metal and hardcore song structures, their vocal stylings, their outspoken, often hilarious and sometimes offensive behavior - but, for me, that’s part of their charm. Being likely the 7th or 8th time I’ve seen them, I was just as eager and just as excited as that first time (inside The School of Rock in Hackensack, New Jersey).

Low Teens, their latest, is a beast of an album. Following the near death experiences of both his newborn daughter and his wife, vocalist and lyricist Keith Buckley turned all of his fear, anger, confusion, and worry into what is easily his best work - both lyrically and vocally. It’s likely Every Time I Die’s best album to date. It’s heavy musically and lyrically, and that’s something I appreciate about them as well - they’re nothing if not honest, even if it’s hidden behind a smirk and clever, maybe smartass turn of phrase. Ending their set with the opening track from Low Teens, “Fear and Trembling,” was a stroke of genius. Hats off, gentlemen. That one left me trembling a bit.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

Confession time - I didn’t know if I wanted to go to this show. My time and energy are in short supply these days, and to be perfectly honest, after Louder Now, my interest in what Taking Back Sunday had waned. It had nothing to do with them, it was definitely more about me and where I was in my life at that point. I spent a decade in Long Island, where they’re from, and arrived around the same time Tell All Your Friends released. When they followed that seminal album up with Where You Want To Be - a much more mature album that came after one full of late teen angst and passion - it was easy to see they were a band with a future far beyond the era they so succinctly captured in their debut.

Louder Now was where I left the band and lost track of their further progression. And I sincerely wish I hadn’t. Their first 3 albums are representative of a tumultuous time in my life, and each one of them has very specific memories and events tied to their contents. It’s legitimately amazing that, in addition to being so emotionally relevant at the time, they still carry the weight they do for me now, however many years later.

All of this is to say that I wasn’t sure what my reaction was going to be, especially when I heard tracks from those albums. And, again, I didn’t know how I would respond to anything beyond what I was so intimately familiar with. To say I was pleasantly surprised by my experience would be a comedic understatement, as my raw voice and genuine introspection during and after their set can testify to. It was a moving set, one that coupled tracks from those first 3 albums with everything that came after seamlessly. I was happy to sing along to songs I remembered from so long ago, and intrigued by those tracks I wasn’t at all familiar with. The volume at which those seminal tracks were given such energetic audience accompaniment was damn near deafening - fan favorites like “A Decade Under the Influence,” “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team),” and set closer, “MakeDamnSure,” offered some of the most cathartic moments of the evening, and felt heavier than the gnarliest riffs Every Time I Die had previously unleashed. Which was, ultimately, as it should have been.

None of this felt like pandering, though, or wallowing in nostalgia, and for that I am the most grateful. It was a night dedicated to what came before as much as what’s happening now, and there was no irony on stage, just as there was no irony on display from all of us singing along. None of it felt silly, or childish; it was oddly sincere, and legitimately moving. And that’s something that Taking Back Sunday can, and should, always be remembered for. I’ll be checking out their last few albums this week, as I go back through their catalog and acquaint myself, again, with a band that outgrew their brash emo roots and became a powerfully eloquent rock and roll band.


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