2002 made a triumphant return last night at the Electric Factory as former emo heroes-turned straight up rock stars Taking Back Sunday made their only area appearance on their current tour.

As the lights went dim for the first time, a band of five people took the stage led by a singer who looks like an extra from Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto." Envy on the Coast isn't necessarily bad, but they're extremely contrived. Somewhere between Glassjaw and Incubus resides Envy. Ryan Hunter jumps around the stage looking genuinely like a man who'd lived his whole life with chimps in a zoo and singing like Daryl Palumbo's little brother. Their musical chops are pretty impressive, especially guitarist/keyboard player Sal Bossio who switched between the strings and keys seemingly every few seconds.

After what seemed like forever setting up, Stephen Christian brought Anberlin to the stage and proceeded to give the crowd (who seemed to love this band), something to watch for 45 minutes. While Envy was a little contrived, Anberlin seems to follow a strict formula when writing songs: guitar intro into verse into pre-chorus into HUGE CHORUS into verse into chorus and then the obligatory “mosh part” breakdown. Christian can lead a band and can connect with kids in the crowd, but besides that Anberlin is just another cookie-cutter rock band primed for the radio.
Just when I had mentally checked out of their set, Christian said “We’re going to play a cover of a band called New Order,” before namedropping every New Wave-era band that has had shirts for sale at Hot Topic. They immediately launched into a version of “True Faith” that oddly did complete justice to the original. It was kind of mindblowing to see a band so…bleh…turn such a great song into their own thing. It was creepy, it was heavy and it was pretty damn good. After that though, they were out of surprises.
Adam Lazzara is not the same person he was in 2002. Are you? No, but you don’t have the weight of a whole music scene watching your every move. He still swings microphones, he still sings in his own special way, but there is a noticeable difference. Maybe it’s the well-documented lack of drugs, the recent move to Texas or maybe he’s just happy. Whatever it is, it made for a hell of a record in their recent New Again, and those songs are Taking Back Sunday’s new live showstoppers.
While “You Know How I Do” and “You’re So Last Summer” from their 2002 debut Tell All Your Friends still make the kids recall failed romances as they scream right back in Lazzara’s face, those songs are now old hat. Even tracks like “Liar” from 2006’s Louder Now sound like a new band playing old songs. With the addition of Matt Fazzi after Philadelphia-local Fred Mascherino called it quits, TBS has turned into a juggernaut. It could be the Quicksand-influenced “Lonely, Lonely” or the huge title track, the new record is exactly where this band wants to be.
Signing with a major might have changed the way the band does business, but the kids who sat in their bedrooms with Sharpies writing “With my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt” on white t-shirts do not care about labels or whether a band has a bus or a van, and that is a beautiful thing. Lazzara is much more subdued now, leaving the stage antics to bassist Matt Rubano who ran across the large Electric Factory stage like he was chasing shadows. Yes, he’s a great showman but after years as a session player, Rubano’s skills on the “funk box” show.
“This song’s old,” said Lazzara. “But we’re gonna make it new.” Fazzi played the opening, instantly-recognizable chords of “Cute Without The ‘E’” and the floor lost it. They did exactly what they said they would, took an old song and made it new again. “Meet the new boss/same as the old boss,” but who said you can’t teach an old boss new tricks?

Related Links:
INTRVW: Thursday Part 1