Taking Back Sunday @ Birmingham O2 Institute, 13 June 2019

With an extensive tour to celebrate twenty years as a band, New York emo-pop band Taking Back Sunday are feeling nostalgic. They have assembled a crowd-pleasing, mammoth set which sees them playing their iconic debut album Tell All Your Friends in full, followed by an assortment of favourites mainly pulled from the two following albums, 2004’s Where You Want To Be and 2006’s Louder Now.

The band know they’ve got a lot of material to get through, so they don’t waste time, launching straight into ‘You Know How I Do’ without hesitation as a room full of pop-punk survivors go wild, screaming back the lyrics word for word. In vocalist Adam Lazzara the band have a compellingly entertaining frontman who spends much of the set swinging his microphone indiscriminately around when he’s not screaming into it, and when he pauses during ‘Bike Scene’ the crowd’s appreciation for the band doesn’t go unnoticed.

Following the album’s tracklist, emo anthem ‘Cute Without The “E” (Cut From The Team)’ makes an early appearance to take things up a level, after which Adam takes the opportunity to address the crowd with the first of many rambling but amusing monologues that paint him as like a cross between a mad evangelical preacher and a smooth-talking Mick Jagger.

There’s a naivety to much of the band’s debut which doesn’t always carry too well on tracks like ‘There’s No “I” In Team’ and ‘Great Romances Of The 20th Century’, but the key thing is that the audience relate it to the time of the album’s release and the band sell it convincingly, with ‘Timberwolves At New Jersey’ prefaced with a funny explanation of how the title came from the misunderstanding of a late night TV headline. Guitarist John Nolan is the calm and considered counterpoint to Lazarra’s excitability and he keeps things flowing through the last few songs from ‘Tell All Your Friends’ where the energy levels naturally dip a little on the likes of ‘The Blue Channel’, featuring a piano intro from guitarist Nathan Cogan, and album closer ‘Head Club’.

Once the band have finished the album sequence they pick up the pace and blast through an assortment of tracks from the band’s following years beginning with ‘A Decade Under The Influence’. It’s interesting to see how the band evolved their sound with tracks like ‘Error: Operator’ relying more on big guitar riffs and a request for ‘My Blue Heaven’ showing more of a mature alternative rock sound, whilst the punky ‘Tidal Wave’ represents what the band’s more recent output. Rushing to finish off the set, crowd-pleasers like ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?’ benefit from the additional urgency, and as the audience sing along loudly to anthems ‘Liar’ and a closing ‘MakeDamnSure’ the band seem satisfied that they’ve done what they set out to do. Sure, tonight they’re looking backwards but it feels good to celebrate a milestone in Taking Back Sunday’s history and everyone leaves happy.

Main support comes from Californian punks The Frights, who are likely unknown to much of the audience but make a good first impression, mixing the modern punk outlook of bands like The Front Bottoms and Fidlar with an upbeat indie sound that sometimes recalls Vampire Weekend’s early material. They’re quite unpredictable and do lose the crowd when they extend one of their tracks out with a lengthy instrumental coda, but it’s interesting to see something different, especially in a genre that tends to stick to the rule book more often than not.

Opening up is a solo set from Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly, a familiar name amongst the Taking Back Sunday faithful who celebrates his own back catalogue with acoustic reworkings of his band’s emo favourites such as ‘This Side Of Brightness’ and the politically charged ‘This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb’. His set’s a mostly downbeat affair delivered with an appreciated honesty, but he also finds time to represent his band’s heavier side with a version of ‘Cross Out The Eyes’ to finish off.


Review by Ian Paget
Photos by Chris Bowley

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