I’m usually the kind of person that will express any extreme emotion through endless weeping, particularly when it comes to live music. On occasion, though, there are shows during which I am so inexplicably happy that my eyes remain dry, and all I can do is grin, dance, and throw my head around wildly. Last night’s intimate Taking Back Sunday show was one of those miraculous moments.
It’s such a special experience now to be able to see TBS at such a small venue, and with just about enough room for eight or so people to line the front of the stage, The King’s Arms Tavern is almost certainly the smallest room they have played to in a while. After attending three shows in 2011 that ranged from having 2,500 attendees at a club gig, to an innumerable number watching them at the main stage at Leeds Festival, I was acutely aware throughout the night of just how lucky we were to be there. Adam Lazzara’s much anticipated infamous dance moves were restricted by the tiny stage, and the lack of barricade meant that I am seriously suffering from full body bruising today, but I wouldn’t have changed a single thing about it.
Contrary to venue size, we were treated to a massive twenty-one song setlist, that – to our absolute delight – included songs that have barely been played live since the release of 2016’s Tidal Wave. The best song of 2011*, Faith (When I Let You Down), was re-added to the setlist just in time for our leg of the tour, after a sad, month long hiatus, and Set Phasers to Stun and Holy Water were met with waves of unambiguously enamoured yells. These rare gems were sandwiched between old classics, such as Liar, A Decade Under the Influence, and What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost; unquestionable favourites of all long-standing TBS fans that were both performed and received with gusto. It’s clear from how perfectly in sync each member is with each other that are not just bandmates, but best friends too, and the tightness of their expertly played set only cemented this further.
The beauty of ‘smaller’ bands coming to New Zealand is that they are always so humbled by the response, and Adam laughed as he noted just how much he was talking between songs instead of just running from one to the next because he was having such a damn good time. The admission that he had to refrain from looking at his bandmates and smiling (to keep up that rock ‘n’ roll exterior), was one that instilled pride in all of us. After all, if these guys are here to give us a good time, all we want is to be able to give that back to them. When we finally got a “Fuck yeah!” out of John Nolan, and Adam informed us that he was very pleased to be wearing his best shirt for us, there was laughter combined with cheering, as we knew we had done exactly that.
I have always maintained that Taking Back Sunday are one of the best live bands I have ever witnessed, and it occurred to me during the ninety minute set that a lot of this is down to the unrestrained crowd engagement. From quoting Forrest Gump (one of his many favourite movies) before launching into 180 By Summer, to sharing how hard it was to put Better Homes and Gardens on 2014’s Happiness Is…, to looking me dead in the eye as a crowd surfer inconveniently landed on my head until he could see I was okay, Adam takes on his on-stage persona with apparent ease. This ease permeates the crowd, and makes being a part of the audience really fucking fun. Like many of my other favourite live performers, Adam takes this engagement to a whole new level as he breaks the fan/band barrier, fearlessly diving into the crowd during Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team) – otherwise known as my favourite song in the entire world. Despite the intimacy of the crowd, we still managed to fully submerge him and, somehow, break his microphone, leaving us to fill in for him to the end of the track, and forcing him to hilariously share a mic with John during the final jam of the night, Make Damn Sure. It was at this point that the crowd surfers removed the barriers themselves, as they took to the stage to aid Adam and John in singing the last minute or so of the song.
It’s hard to explain what it means to hear these tracks live when they’ve been in your life since you were an ugly prepubescent emo-child, guiding you through moments you thought might crush you – even if only in a way that distracts you from the pain you were feeling. In a live environment, that distraction is enhanced ten fold, and it’s an overwhelming sense of relief to feel the pure contentment that comes with that. The songs that you downloaded off Limewire ten years ago (and were no doubt plagued with viruses that destroyed your PC as your penance), and played to death on your near vintage iPod for close to eleven years are now being played just for you. There’s nothing quite like it, and Taking Back Sunday were evidently born to be performers, making it just that extra bit special. I’ll be holding onto this night for many years to come.
Liar (Takes One to Know One)
Can’t Look Back
Timberwolves at New Jersey
What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost
A Decade Under the Influence
You’re So Last Summer
Call Come Running
Faith (When I Let You Down)
Stood a Chance
One-Eighty By Summer
Better Homes and Gardens
My Blue Heaven
Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)
Make Damn Sure
*according to Yasmin.