Over a year ago, Taking Back Sunday announced their plans to release a career-spanning compilation album and to head out on a massive 20th anniversary tour in 2019. It was a huge celebration for the band and fans alike, a they were able to celebrate the past for their 20th anniversary before getting right back into the grind of working on new music. To do this, Taking Back Sunday announced that they would be performing their first three albums across two nights in most cities: 2002’s Tell All Your Friends, 2004’s Where You Want to Be, and 2006’s Louder Now.
Taking Back Sunday is one of the more unique bands to come from the early-2000’s alternative scene. They’ve been a constant force throughout their time in the music world, despite a period where they were rotating band members every few years — even to having their own Wikipedia page for their band members This isn’t a bad thing particularly, most bands will go through member changes, and ultimately for Taking Back Sunday, they settled down in 2010 when their original lineup all came back together.
Since then, there has only been one member change with Eddie Reyes departing in 2018, only to be replaced with Nathan Cogan, who had been a touring member with the band since 2010. Through all of that still, Taking Back Sunday remained a force to be reckoned with: three gold records, five top 20 albums on the Billboard 200, and four top 20 singles on U.S. radio. Needless to say, Taking Back Sunday had a lot to celebrate this year with their 20th anniversary celebration.
Back in January, I spoke to Adam Lazzara about their plans for the 20th anniversary celebration — and he mentioned then that it wasn’t something he was entirely thrilled on at first. “I have to admit, I wasn’t too crazy about the idea, simply because I don’t want to be looked at as a nostalgic act,” he explained. While there was that initial hesitation, he was swayed into doing it by the band’s longtime manager, Jillian. You see, Lazarra moved to New York 20 years ago and joined Taking Back Sunday — he didn’t know really anyone else outside of those in the band, and it has changed his life for the better. For the band there was no way to ignore that, and Jillian helped by shifting Lazarra’s view to this. “I started to think like I do want to celebrate this, I do want to go out and be able to celebrate it with the people that helped us and have been with us this whole time,” Lazzara explained to me.
As someone that was able to get the chance to catch their 20th anniversary show live a few months back, I can safely attest that they have never sounded better live. That’s what is truly such a fascinating thing about Taking Back Sunday, as their music evolves, so does their live shows. You can likely trace this back to all of the original members rejoining the band and a renewed fire amongst all of the members. But regardless what it trails back to, if you have seen Taking Back Sunday live in the past few years, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
It starts with the musicianship between all of the band members, credit to them and their crew for always keeping the machine flowing between songs. Credit to Lazzara himself as well, as over the past few years he’s southern-accent has shined through in their live performances which gives their older songs a new flare. Their antics on-stage are also better than other, even if that’s not a priority for other fans, but Taking Back Sunday fans know that when they see the band live, they’ll get a decent lick of comedy from Lazzara and co.
Their 20th anniversary celebration was, truly, one of the best Taking Back Sunday shows that this writer has been to. It had all of the songs you typically hear live — “Cute Without the E,” “MakeDamnSure,” “You’re So Last Summer” — mixed in with songs that don’t quite make the set as frequently: “This Photograph Is Proof,” “Head Club,” “…Slowdance On the Inside,” and more.
These tracks shined live, really benefiting from an environment in which everyone knew what to expect. There were no surprises on the setlist, due to them being full-album play throughs — and everyone came ready to sing their hearts on. The crowd energy was electric, and Taking Back Sunday was feeding off of that all night. As they ripped through the set, both nights, it was impressive even more as the night went on. To really think about it, is to accept that the band have been performing 30 songs a night all year on this tour — and to do that, by the time I had seen them in October, to still sound as solid as they did, is even more impressive.
While it was a night full of joy, a little bit of nostalgia, and sheer talent, there’s a true excitement towards the future. That was always part of the plan, as well. When the band announced their plans for this 20th anniversary celebration, they did it with the news of that career-spanning album, and put two new songs on there: “A Song for Dan” and “All Ready to Go.” While they are great songs with an electric sound, it’s hard to know what 2020 will hold with new music. When speaking on this with me back in January, Lazzara himself stated that this was something he wasn’t sure of either, “I think we’d be doing a disservice if we said, ‘Oh yeah, these two songs are the direction we’re going’ because, who knows what the next batch of songs is going to sound like.”
That’s part of the beauty in it. No one really knows how Taking Back Sunday will sound in 2020, but we do know that new music is coming at least. If the last 20 years are any indication of the future, then fans of Taking Back Sunday have nothing to worry about. They’re seemingly stronger than ever, and now we all wait for what’s next.