Straylight Run played their first show in 12 years opening for Taking Back Sunday (review, videos)
After virtually reuniting to perform one song on Riot Fest's livestream in 2020, and then releasing a live-in-2005 album, Straylight Run played their first show in over 12 years on Wednesday night (12/8) at Long Island's Mulcahy's Pub, the first of four nights opening for related band Taking Back Sunday. And not only was it the band's first show since their 2010 breakup, it had been even longer since John Nolan, Shaun Cooper, and Will Noon had played with John's sister Michelle DaRosa, who left the band in 2008 and whose piano and vocals were crucial to Straylight Run. Michelle's return helped give Straylight Run the rich, full sound that was sorely missed on those last two EPs and final tours, and making things sound even bigger was help from Taking Back Sunday's touring guitarist/backing vocalist/pianist Nathan Cogan (of Fox Harbor).
When Straylight Run walked on stage around 8:45 PM last night, there was no grand introduction, nothing to signify this was a long-awaited reunion. The five members just took to their instruments and went straight into "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" off their classic 2004 self-titled debut album like no time had passed at all, and they instantly sounded great. If you didn't know any better, you never would have guessed this band hadn't played together in over a decade. There was no rust to shake off, no sign of hesitation or anxiety about the reunion. John, Michelle & co. played their hearts out and they really looked and sounded like these songs mean just as much to them in 2021 as they did 17 years ago. "You don’t miss Straylight Run. You just miss being young," John tweeted in 2019, but nothing about this set seemed like a nostalgia fest. Straylight Run's songs have aged way better than a lot of the stuff you'll hear blasting out of PA speakers at Emo Nites; there's a real element of timelessness to those records, and you felt that during every song they played.
Straylight Run's nine-song setlist pulled almost entirely from their debut, hitting underrated cuts like "The Tension and the Terror," "Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs," "Sympathy For the Martyr," "For the Best," and "Another Word for Desperate," as well as the bigger fan faves like "Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway)" (which John opened by telling the crowd how the "very Long Island" song took place on a street that was just around the corner, and also how technically the song references "Carmans Rd," but that he changed it to "Carmans Avenue" so it would rhyme), and of course "Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)" and "Existentialism on Prom Night," both of which had the crowd singing like they thought no one was listening. It was an airtight setlist without a single lull -- I would've liked to hear more from the Prepare to Be Wrong EP and something from The Needles the Space, but I get you can't play everything with the time constraints of an opening set. Here's to hoping they keep the reunion going long enough to play some headlining shows!
Not long after Straylight Run left the stage, John, Shaun, and Nathan underwent a quick wardrobe change and returned with Adam Lazzara and Mark O'Connell for Taking Back Sunday's headlining set. As highly anticipated as the Straylight Run reunion was, the crowd was of course saving most of its energy for TBS, and that was clear from the moment the band launched into set opener "What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?," immediately lighting a fire under the very packed club with the audience sending all the energy right back to the band. At this point, Taking Back Sunday are seasoned pros, Adam Lazzara has the confidence and swagger of a true rock star, and they make it look so damn easy as they hold the crowd in the palms of their hands for 90 minutes straight. They know how to give the people what they want, with plenty of fan faves from their classic first three albums. As if "What's It Feel Like to Be A Ghost?" wasn't a big enough bang to kick off the show, their second song was their big Where You Want to Be hit "A Decade Under the Influence." And of course they played tons of other heavy hitters, like "Liar (It Takes One to Know One)," "Error: Operator," "One-Eight by Summer," "Set Phasers to Stun," "Cute Without the E," "You're So Last Summer," "Timberwolves at New Jersey," "MakeDamnSure," and more. And they balanced it out well with some newer material (Tidal Wave's title track got a reaction on par with the classics) and their straightforward-but-fun cover of Weezer's "My Name Is Jonas."
Before playing "Timberwolves at New Jersey," Adam told a story of how he first heard the song when John debuted it at one of the solo acoustic sets he was known for playing on Long Island, which was just one of many anecdotes Adam told about the band's hometown. (He also told a story of getting kicked out of Mulcahy's when he was underage and tried to get in by using John's ID.) It was obviously special to see TBS back on Long Island where it all began, and making the night even more LI-centric was an opening set from locals Playing Dead. Their hooky, '90s/early '00s-inspired emo/punk fit right in.
TBS and Straylight Run do it again at at Mulcahy's tonight (12/9), and then they do two nights at NJ's Starland Ballroom on Friday (12/10) and Saturday (12/11). All four are sold out.
Photos by Carly Hoskins, videos and setlists from last night's show below...
Straylight Run Setlist
Mistakes We Knew We Were Making
The Tension and the Terror
Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs
Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway)
Sympathy for the Martyr
It's for the Best
Another Word for Desperate
Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)
Existentialism on Prom Night
Taking Back Sunday Setlist
What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
A Decade Under the Influence
Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
Set Phasers to Stun
You're So Last Summer
Better Homes and Gardens
Timberwolves at New Jersey
My Blue Heaven
You Can't Look Back
My Name Is Jonas (Weezer cover)
One-Eighty by Summer
Cute Without the 'E' (Cut From the Team)