The first time I listened to Taking Back Sunday, I was probably around 12 or 13. I was getting into the so-called emo and pop-punk scene, and Taking Back Sunday was one of those bands that were easy to get into. There was so much affection in the vocals; you had to yell out the lyrics even when you had headphones on. At the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Taking Back Sunday’s 20th-anniversary live show exhibited how the music from our youth can bring together a horde of former (and maybe present) scene kids to unite them in glory.
You could feel a certain excitement in everyone at the venue. My friend and I were grabbing beers only a few minutes before the show was supposed to start. As soon as I saw the now elderly members of Taking Back Sunday get on stage and immediately started playing “You Know How I Do,” the most intense urge of just getting into the crowd felt as apparent as ever. The cascading guitars of the song pummelled like a vehicle’s engine getting ready for the long trek. Adam Lazarra started to combust on the stage: “So sick so sick of being tired / and oh so tired of being sick,” a line thematic of my generation’s emo kids. Everybody just wanted to be their own person and not have anyone tell them what to do. My friend and I couldn’t stop giggling about how we were going to see them, and here they are on stage as pumped as they looked 20 long years ago.
Slowly, but surely we made our way towards the mosh pit in time for “Cute Without the E,” a classic by the Long Island band. At 37 years old, Adam Lazzara still looks great, a kind of scene-Jimmy Page, as my friend mentioned at the time of the concert. He doesn’t look like a rockstar that’s dwindled to the scene’s fringes, but a man still worthy of the stage. I was aways at awe watching him swing that mic on early youtube clips, and here he was as nimble as ever tossing the mic around like a whip easily coiled and ready to lash out. John Nolan looks like a dad now with hair flowing down both sides of his face and a semi-kept beard. He still belted out my favorite echoed vocals, always fighting for space in the song but in reality, always complementing Lazzara’s wails.
One of the highlights from the concert was the famous “You’re So Last Summer.” Goosebumps crawled all over my body as soon as Lazarra belted that iconic opening line from the track: “She said don’t!” screams Lazzara as the crowd relished in the song’s luster. High school was such a time of isolation and angst for a lot of these late twenties “kids,” but that doesn’t mean we could relive those times with a sort of nostalgic joy. Everyone gathered for this celebration of music can look back into those times of yearning. It’s a proud moment to look at ourselves now and realize how much we’ve grown and matured.
After they finished playing the album Tell All Your Friends, Lazzara had someone from the band The Maine come out to flip a coin whether to play the records Louder Now or Where You Want To Be. I wanted them to perform the former, but the latter got picked to the crowd’s delight. It seemed like the younger generation of Taking Back Sunday fans (probably people my age) would have gone for Louder Now because of the song “MakeDamnSure,” but I didn’t mind it. It was one of the more prominent highlights of the concert by a mile and probably had given me the most significant nostalgia hit. That was one of the first songs I played live with my first band in the Philippines, a moment in time for the making of musicians following their own path today.
At the Commodore Ballroom that night, bodies flung against one another in the hopes of feeling each other’s sweat and passion, bits of saliva trickling out of everyone’s mouths shouting out the words of a disgruntled poet about a bad relationship. “I just want to break you down so badly,” screams the crowd with Lazarra, a line meant to convey the more profound sadness of having oneself being put down by a loved one. There’s a willingness to hurt the other person, but there is still lingering love that holds it back.
Towards the second half of the record, everything slowed down. Most of the crowd stopped moshing and kept to their miniature head-banging. It was only during the third part of the set where they played “This Photograph is Proof” and “A Decade Under the Influence,” where the crowd gained a third jolt of energy to revive another mosh and sing along to the teenage anthems of their childhood for the last hurrah. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Nolan repeats, a lyric repeated through his angst that has been ringing through my head whenever I get back to listening to the band. The lyric captures a moment of lingering anxiety before an imminent breakup. The opposite could be said about the whole night.
By the end, I was left with a feeling of elation, a sort of transcendence within the present world. There aren’t many bands that could do that. Maybe it was the nostalgia striking me, or perhaps it was just my communion with the audience. There’s a sense of intimate unity you achieve when moshing with other people you know who adore the band as much as you do. It’s a shared dance we’ve savored in our teenage years, a time when everything was more comfortable even if at the time, it felt like the whole world was against us.
I found out about Taking Back Sunday through one of my good friends from my childhood. He showed me the song “Timberwolves at New Jersey” during our preteens, a time for many when we started to consider rebelling against our parents. That intro guitar riff with Lazzara singing, “Get up, get up, come on, come on, let’s go!” always got me out of my seat and made me want to start moshing. I long for the days getting into that emo scene and wanting to be a punk rocker. Most of the people my age at the show could probably say the same, and for that one night, we collectively embraced those moments in our young lives, not with a mutinous furor but with devotion to the music.