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Taking Back Sunday: Two Decades Under the Influence at First Avenue

Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

1550 forever-young emo kids packed First Avenue’s Mainroom on Saturday night. It’s the 20th-anniversary celebration of one of the staple bands of the scene; Taking Back Sunday.

The tour is a fun concept. The first half of the set is their debut album Tell All Your Friends. A coin toss determines whether the second half will be their second album Where You Want To Be or their third album Louder Now. Either way, a huge number of their most beloved songs would be guaranteed on the setlist.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

They’re one of those bands that have a hold on their fans for life. You could tell by looking at the crowd that their lives had all taken different paths since the early days (a point that can be proven on haircuts alone), but converging back to that time brought everyone right back where they want to be.

The Maine

Let’s start with this – I have seen headlining acts play for far fewer people in the Mainroom. The audience participation for this opening act was staggering. There was barely room to move during the set because so many people had turned out early to see them.

Most in the crowd were extremely familiar with The Maine. They’re a huge deal to those in the pop-punk, emo, Warped Tour scene (I will let you choose what you’d like to call it). They were clearly the best possible choice to take on the road for this tour.

For those of us who hadn’t checked them out after 12 years of popularity, they began their set in the best way possible – with a high energy cover that everyone could sing along to. Blur’s “Song 2“. Talk about getting the blood pumping!

Singer John O’Callaghan can work a stage effortlessly. The crowd lost their minds during the 40-minute as he stood larger than life on the edge of the stage. He’d often lean down to touch hands and vibe with the crowd.

There wasn’t a moment that the other five members on stage weren’t working just as hard or looking just as cool in their sleek all-black attire. Every single person on the stage brought life to the performance and crowd reaction speaks for itself.

O’Callaghan selected a fan to come onstage in the middle of “Girls Do What They Want” to perform the final chorus (great job Nate!). A supportive crowd cheered him on. The set was electric and full of swagger.

Taking Back Sunday

The show started off with a bang. The lights went up to a screaming crowd and John Nolan, Mark O’Connell, Shaun Cooper, and Nathan Cogan approached the stage one by one to begin “You Know How I Do“. Singer Adam Lazzara was last to join the band on the stage, donning a 7th Street Entry t-shirt to hearty praise from the packed pit.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

Lazzara made it through only one song before he broke out his signature move. He violently swings his microphone in the air like a lasso and it wraps around his body – sometimes even his neck. Dangerous? Yes. Fun to watch? Also yes.

Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” brought the first mosh of the night. Looking out at the sea of people, it was clear that being pushed around in the crowd was more of a comforting nostalgic dance than an annoyance. The crowd was beaming. They knew exactly what they were getting into, and they were ready to jump, sing, and raise their fists.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The band spent a lot of time between songs playfully chatting to the crowd. Lazzara would pace back and forth along the front of the stage. The mood was light and the band was happy to joke around. If fans would try to shout something at him while he was talking he’d give a coy smile and reply “I’m in the middle of something right now. Let’s talk about it after work”.

Lazzara would stoop and sway with his words like he was the ringleader of a very important alt-rock circus. The nature of the tour made them nostalgic enough to pull back the curtain on the songs. He shared stories before each one. Nolan would make sure that he’d stay in line, providing playful fact checks as needed.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

One of the behind-the-scenes stories came from the song “Timberwolves at New Jersey“. They named the song by watching the TV Guide channel between 1:30-4am, scouring for song titles. Lazzara laughed as he proclaimed himself “not a sports guy”, and had no idea that it was referring to a basketball game and not a wild attack on the state of New Jersey.

“That was scary for me! (I thought) someone has to fix this!”

You’re So Last Summer” and “Head Club” finished off Tell All Your Friends with extra moshing and even one lone crowd surfer. As the song ended, Lazzara said “Well there you go. Tell All Your Friends celebration. See ya!” and dropped the mic. He pretended to walk off stage.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

It was finally time for the ceremonial coin toss by tour manager Andy. The fate of the night: second album Where You Want To Be. Everyone screamed as they got right down to business with “Set Phasers to Stun“.

It was clear that the audience members were starting to lose a little of their gusto. They had been going hard the entire night, but vodka Red Bull can only keep you dancing for so long. It was a mammoth set! The enthusiasm never wavered though. After all, this was a special show with a stacked setlist.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

A Decade Under the Influence” brought more mic swinging and moshing. The energy perked back up and stayed there. The crowd shouted the lyrics along in unison with fists held high.

“Who’s to say you’ll have to go? (I could go all night)
Well, say you’ll have to go (I could go all)
To hell with you and all your friends
To hell with you and all your friends, it’s on”

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

The set ended on built-up emotion with “…Slowdance On the Inside“. We learned it was written on a snowy day at the beach when Lazzara was in a bad way and was working through some problems in life. A friend told him he can slow dance on the inside or the outside, and the song was born.

Without leaving the stage, the band kicked into a short third set with songs from other albums, including two from Louder Now and a few newer songs as well. The set closed with “MakeDamnSure” under a huge blast of confetti. It was an epic ending to a marathon night.

Taking Back Sunday, First Avenue, The Maine, 20th Anniversary World Tour, Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be, Louder Now, Coin Flip, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O'Connell, Shaun Cooper, Hopeless Records, Craft Recordings, Alt Rock, Pop Punk, Emo, Post-Hardcore, Emo Pop, Pop Rock
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Photo by – Kathleen Ambre

This tour serves as a mutual “thank you” between the band and the fans who have stuck around for 20 years. There’s no doubt that TBS is here to stay and will continue to make a lasting impact on the scene.

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