Taking Back Sunday

support Carnival Kids
author TL date 30/11/14 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Being in a band is normally a travelling lifestyle, and to most bands, playing shows all over the place is both a nice way to see the world and a good way to build demand in multiple markets. Some times however, a band's rise can be so meteoric that the demand for big shows with them becomes so high in some markets that it doesn't make any sense business-wise to spend time anywhere else. Chalk this up as a main reason that semimal emo rockers Taking Back Sunday has never made it to Denmark, because they blew up between 2002 and 2007, and despite sticking together through numerous line-up changes, it's likely that there was always bigger shows waiting for them in bigger markets, especially considering how emo as a movement was totally overlooked in Denmark.

Since reforming in 2011, to the line-up once responsible for 2002's genre cornerstone "Tell All Your Friends", things have gradually changed for Taking Back Sunday though, especially after they signed with Hopeless Records, and to make a long story short, those in the know that had waited over ten years for the opportunity would now get a chance to see the band in the comfy setting of Lille Vega, a small room by TBS standards at only 500 capacity. Consequently, many familiar faces from concerts through the years could be seen, waiting anxiously in the venue as the show drew near.

Carnival Kids

For the longest time, Vega's website maintained that it was British comets Marmozets that would support, although this was quite implausible considering the band's scheduled show with Issues in Los Angeles the day before. Instead the job was given to British/Norwegian quartet Carnival Kids, whose frontman in particular get started in energetic fashion, as the band puts up a sound that brings to mind a spectrum ranging from Disco Ensemble over Blindside into the likes of Cancer Bats. The style is constantly hard-pumped, with a whip-cracking rhythm section and vocals that sit somewhere between raspy singing and melodic hardcore yelling, and the songs head straight for the point, seeming like they were made to inspire rowdy movement in the live setting. The guitarist and bassist are not moving in any way out of the ordinary however, so it's clearly left to their vocalist to fix the audience's attention by bouncing about the middle of the stage, whipping his hair back and forth and tangling himself in and out of the microphone cord.

This part of the show functions decently, although it's the kind of performance that's "in your face" more than one that inspires you to take part in the movement. And despite the energy being at a constant high, it eventually becomes clear that the group has a very limited melodic talent to colourise their frantic songs. There are curious guitar signatures here and there, but they're kept as filler before and between the main parts, and while the raspy vocals are pretty cool, they soon become monotonous in the absense of any properly catchy melodic singing to contrast them. Their attitude between songs is pretty cool actually, but with the growing feeling that the music's main property is to get your pulse racing, one senses that the guitar would need more presense and better riffs to even facilitate this potential fully. Overall then, the group looks the part and plays fast and hard, but power and contrast in the material seems like areas of improvement they need to work on.

Taking Back Sunday

Due to the Danish domestic rock icon Tim Christensen performing a rare acoustic performance in the bigger room next door, there's a one hour changeover in Lille Vega, which is actually quite fine, because tonight is an opportunity to catch up and get a bit of a buzz on before getting on the time machine when the band plays its older songs. One could also hope that the extra time would ensure a good mix in time for the first song, but as the band eventually appear and launch into "What It Feels Like To Be A Ghost", this is not exactly the case, with the notes from the guitars piercing through, but not at the full, powerful volume you want out of that instrument. Not that anyone really notices at first, because the frontmost half of Vega is losing its shit, singing near every word to the opener as well as "Decade Under The Influence" and "Number Five With A Bullet".

This becomes a theme for the night, and while a select few continue to take beer or pee breaks during some of the band's newer songs - despite lead singer Adam Lazzara prefacing each of these by impressing upon us how each one is special to him - most of the room enters a singalong, shout-our-lungs-out kind of ecstasy from beginning to finish, the main difference being that people in the back move somewhat less and seem to stick with singing the choruses, while the front is rocking out like lives depended on it. The response is, in a word, passionate, Lazzara, guitarist/singer John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper have the kind of surprised smiles on their faces that you find on band members that didn't really expect anyone to know every single one of their songs in a country they'd never been in.

"Stood A Chance", "Liar", "Timberwolves At New Jersey", "Faith" and "Set Phasers To Stun" follow, and the consistency of the group's material is plain at hand. The show is barely halfway through before the audience's voices are shrill and stretched beyond comfort. The problem however, is that the same is true on stage. Despite Taking Back Sunday packing an extra touring guitarist/vocalist, who helps to boost those strained highs they rely on so often, the notes are a lot shorter, thinner and less precise than on record, and an objective crowd would have to note that it's a bit weak that a band of so many years still performs their singing in a way that is - well, let's say "so punk".

Fortunately there's not much objectivity in the room tonight. It's been drowned under the nostalgia that alternative kids, past and present, have formed with so much of the New Jersey band's songs, and song upon song is recited communally like a desperate gospel. The newer "Better Homes And Gardens" is a highlight in terms of how things sound, before "You're So Last Summer" and "Error Operator" lit more fuel within the people on the floor that sway side to side elatedly. All the while, their eyes have been fixed on Lazzara, who despite having less room to work his usual mic-swinging acrobatics with, is still the main performer on stage, distracting us from the fact that his colleagues are playing in relatively business-like manner. Words are sung and expressed with emphasis via theatrical gestures and direct eye-contact, and with the North Carolina native also employing his Southern Charm to make it pretty damn hard to determine if this is a great night for him or just the way he always acts.

The band performs seven more songs, eighteen in total, ending with a quintet of the newer "All The Way" and "Flicker, Fade" and the classics "You Know How I Do", "Cute Without The E" and "MakeDamnSure", with Lazzara explaining that due to the long changeover there's no time for an encore before the Sunday curfew. The audience they leave looks exhausted, most with some croaky speaking voices, but there's still a clear sense that few would have minded a couple of more songs. Or ten. The number of songs this band has written that has stood the test of time and still has people dying to hear and sing them is frankly staggering, yet it's pretty clear that the strength of the material and the charm of Lazzara goes a long way to counter-balance the trouble he and Nolan have with belting those high notes out there the way they once recorded them. However, when you count in the elation that's released from a room decently filled with people living out a show ten years in the waiting, then you still get an evening that most will count as a pretty damn memorable one.

Setlist:

  • 1. What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost
  • 2. A Decade Under The Influence
  • 3. Number Five With A Bullet
  • 4. Stood A Chance
  • 5. Liar (Takes One To Know One)
  • 6. Timberwolves At New Jersey
  • 7. Faith (When I Let You Down)
  • 8. Set Phasers To Stun
  • 9. Better Homes And Gardens
  • 10. You're So Last Summer
  • 11. Error Operator
  • 12. One-Eighty By Summer
  • 13. My Blue Heaven
  • 14. Flicker, Fade
  • 15. You Know How I Do
  • 16. All The Way
  • 17. Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team)
  • 18. MakeDamnSure

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