Taking Back Sunday Takes Me Back

By Bob Marshall

I always find it frightening when I tell someone my age (22 if you’re keeping track) to which they reply, “Ah, those were the best years of my life.” Really? Because if that’s true, I’m not happy. I mean, this is it?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great being quite young and single in a city like Chicago, and I can say I’m enjoying myself more than I did when I was in high school. But, yes, the grass is always greener, and maybe when people say “Those were the best years of my life,” (when you were awkward, confused and fighting acne?) they don’t quite mean it literally. Maybe they’re just subconsciously stating, “It would be pretty great if I could stand in your shoes again and just look around.”

Well, while I might never know what it’s like to reverse from middle age to my early twenties, for one night at the Metro, I was able to remember what it felt like to be 15 again, and why being a confused, angst-y, heartbroken kid wasn’t all that bad.

Taking Back Sunday has been around for about a decade now, and in 2002 their debut album Tell All Your Friends found a large amount of teenagers drawn to their sound. They were an emocore band, but they weren’t so heavy it was abrasive. They were also a band that favored what would have been considered the power ballads of last decade, but they were fun enough that fans could still mosh at their shows. And, while they were still making music videos for singles off of their first album, lead guitarist and songwriter John Nolan left along with bassist Shaun Cooper to start their side project Straylight Run.

Over the next eight years, band members came and went, and the band fought a decline in popularity, an aging fanbase and themselves. So, when the band announced their original lineup was back for the first since TAYF and was hitting Chicago as part of a six date summer tour, I didn’t even hear about it because, well, I hadn’t paid any attention to the band since high school.

Due to an incredibly cheap scalped ticket, I attended the sold out show I had heard of only a few minutes before. When the band came on and played the first four chords of their 2002 song “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team),” the crowd erupted, and I saw my former high school peers lining the Metro, now out of college and still remembering every word. The band had aged too, changing from a bunch of scrappy Long Island kids into veteran rockers, still singing songs about being young teenagers, even going so far as to remarking about certain lyrics that now sounded a little grating. After playing “Bike Scene” featuring the lyric “You’ve got that silly way/ Of keeping me on the edge of my seat,” nearly 30-year-old frontman Adam Lazarra commented “You know, when we wrote this, John told me not to use the word ‘Silly.’ He told me it would sound stupid later. Now, I usually don’t even sing it when we play that song, but sometimes, you just have to say ‘silly’ sometimes.”

For anyone who knows the songs of Taking Back Sunday, those lyrics aren’t nearly their worst offense. During their song “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” the line “Those words at best were worse than teenage poetry” happen a verse before the line “C’mon, c’mon you know I can’t help it/ I got the mic, and you got the mosh pit.” While cringe-worthy, the song got a huge response from the crowd, as most were wearing the 21+ wristbands and remembered old deep cuts better than newer singles. Older minor hit “You’re So Last Summer” had everyone in the audience yelling along “The truth is you could slit my throat/ And with my one last gasping breath/ I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt.” It sounded as stupid and awesome as it did the first time I heard it.

The band played only four songs from after their 2006 album Louder Now, and the band seemed more than anything just happy to be back together. As Lazarra put, “I know how this must sound, but it’s easy to forget until times like this how much fun it is to be in a band.” In regards to John Nolan, whom Lazarra had a large publicized fight with before the breakup, he said, “I got my buddy back.” The band even covered Straylight Run’s single “Existentialism on Prom Night” which had Lazarra singing along with on an acoustic guitar with Nolan on keyboards.

At the end of the set, the band played Louder Now single “Makedamnsure” which had Lazarra scaling the Metro’s scaffolding and hanging by his legs from the top of it, singing upside down “I just want to bring you down so badly.” Cathartic? Yes, and not something I expect to see during any show at Pitchfork Music Festival unless Steven Malkmus decides to drop a bunch of acid or something. The encore ended with the song that came to define best friend fights forever for those of us watching, “There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Team'”

It seemed perfect, friends separated from each other now reunited and singing about similar fights that happened years ago, and it felt good to stop fighting against musical tastes that I had long written off as childish. I remembered what it was like to be a teenager, I remembered the first girl that broke my fragile little heart, and I remembered driving to prom with Taking Back Sunday reminding me that I wasn’t alone in feeling like an insecure teenager. Just as the band reunited for the first time in years, I reunited with a piece of myself that I left behind with age.

Hell, there’s gotta be someone around who constantly disses on their “new stuff,” right?

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