Taking Back Sunday have gone through tons of lineup changes over the years, so it's kind of a pleasant surprise that their classic lineup -- the one that recorded their 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends -- has remained consistently active since reuniting in 2010. That lineup now has four albums under their belt, more than any other TBS lineup ever had, including this year's major left-turn, Tidal Wave. Seemingly written as a way to entirely distance the band from "emo," Tidal Wave is a punk-ish take on the heartland rock of Springsteen, Petty and even Bryan Adams. It's basically a Gaslight Anthem album. Evolution is crucial for a band, but a different sound isn't necessarily the same as an evolved one. When John Nolan and Shaun Cooper were away from Taking Back Sunday, they were making inventive music with Straylight Run. Had they contributed songs like "Hands In the Sky (Big Shot)" and "Soon We'll Be Living In The Future" to Taking Back Sunday, TBS may now have the reputation of their elusive frenemies/competing Long Island emo kings Brand New. It's not that TBS shouldn't change it up, but channelling someone else's pre-existing sound isn't evolving. Emo or not, those first three albums are unique, and it's easy to see why they helped TBS quickly take off and still have an impact all these years later.
TBS are on tour now playing more intimate venues than usual, and just hit NYC for sold-out shows at Irving Plaza last night (9/30) and the night before. They've been doing two sets on this tour, first one with the new album played in full and then a "hits" set. They were tight as hell for the Tidal Wave set and clearly having a great time, but sounded like a totally average band compared to the way they sounded in set two. Their sound on Tell All Your Friends and that album's two followups (where Fred Mascherino took over John Nolan's role) -- dramatic dual-vocals and a style that bounces between pop punk, emo, post-hardcore and alternative rock -- is rarely rivaled. Even if it's a little odd to see John sing Fred's parts, especially when there were seven other TAYF songs they could've played (or even a Straylight run song or two, which they have done before), they sounded like such a vital band every time they played off the first three records. They opened set two with "Cute Without the 'E'," and from that moment on the whole crowd was in a total frenzy. The band may be set on moving on from that sound, but they looked clearly thrilled at the reactions those songs still inspire.
Opening the show was a younger emo band, Orlando's You Blew It, who proved that when it's done right, evolution really is crucial. A few days after this tour started, You Blew It announced that they signed to Triple Crown Records (home of the first two Brand New albums) and will release Abendrot for the label this November. Their earlier records were indebted to the sounds of Mike and Tim Kinsella (including an EP on Jade Tree, home of a few classic Kinsella bands), but Abendrot has the band venturing into more atmospheric territory. Sometimes it sounds a little like early Manchester Orchestra, but mostly it puts YBI in the group of modern emo bands finding ways to push the sound forward rather than "revive" older versions of it. (This group includes their labelmates Foxing and Into It. Over It., plus TWIABP, Pianos Become the Teeth, The Hotelier, and a few others.) Highlights of YBI's earlier records like "Award of the Year Award" were fun, but it was during the Abendrot songs where YBI really felt like a band on the verge of a breakthrough. And this was a pretty perfect tour for them to debut their new sound. Providing direct support to a popular band in a relatively intimate venue allowed YBI to introduce the new songs to large crowds right off the bat. And because most people were there for Taking Back Sunday, You Blew It didn't risk playing the Abendrot songs for a room of old fans who were resisting the new material.
The tour continues in Rhode Island tonight (10/1) and then hits TBS' hometown of Long Island on Tuesday (10/4). In December, TBS do their annual NJ holiday shows at Starland Ballroom.
Here are some videos and TBS' setlist from last night...
Taking Back Sunday @ Irving Plaza - 9/30/16 Setlist
You Can't Look Back
I Felt It Too
Call Come Running
In the Middle of It All
We Don't Go in There
I'll Find a Way to Make It What You Want
Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)
Set Phasers to Stun
Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
A Decade Under the Influence
My Blue Heaven
Timberwolves at New Jersey
One-Eighty by Summer
You're So Last Summer