Photo: Kieran Gallop
Whist tonight’s headliners Taking Back Sunday have undoubtedly been a vital staple of the international alt-rock and emo scene for exactly two decades now, it would be a crime to understate the importance of the input Geoff Rickly (7) has had towards the respective scene and subculture. A rare solo appearance from the Thursday and No Devotion frontman, tonight’s performance is a tentative and stripped back affair composed of reimagined and reworked Thursday hits complimented with a smattering of Rickly’s own personal solo material. Despite his respective legacy being one of relative withdrawn reclusiveness, with Thursday and No Devotion appearances being seldom seen in recent years, it’s fantastic to see Rickly animated and in fantastic form this evening, with the post-hardcore figurehead reeling tales behind performed tracks with excitable and hospitable energy.
Whilst many in attendance will undoubtedly know many of these performed tracks inside and out, the fashion in which Rickly presents such material is a far comparison from the electric intensity associated with Thursday’s signature sound. There’s withdrawn hesitation and tenderness within his solo sound, with renditions of timeless Thursday tracks such as ‘Climax’, ‘Time’s Arrow’ and ‘This Song Brought You By A Falling Bomb’ resonating quiet introspection. Never the less, it’s transparent to see who has been raised by the sonic offerings courtesy of Rickly, with those ignorant to his history lazily watching with a wavering attention span whilst those devoted are captivated with rapt attention. Despite this is being a rare and tantalising treat for the post-hardcore connoisseurs in attendance, one can only appreciate how those unfamiliar with the stylings of Rickly will be unaware of the significance of this set. Never the less, as aforementioned, it’s a fleeting opportunity to catch one of post-hardcore’s legends in a more intimate setting and Rickly does his own respective legacy justice tonight.
It could be said that The Frights (7) have had a somewhat uphill battle this tour. Despite being gifted the coveted spot of being main support for Taking Back Sunday’s European run, the band have been the subject of minimal exposure and promotion on our side of the Atlantic. Such a fact only becomes transparently evident when the band’s appearance is only met with polite applause in contrast to rapturous cheer. Despite this somewhat initially apathetic reception from the crowd, the Californian quartet swiftly prove their worth and quickly warm the ever so frigid crowd before them. With a sound that surfs between the adolescent hyperactivity of skate punk and the relative comfort and safety of alternative pop, the group radiate the warmth and the sunny disposition of their home state this evening, solidifying themselves a suitable act for this support slot.
Photo: Kieran Gallop
Despite the group’s carefree and lighthearted demeanour and presence, there’s a subtle, yet vital important, sheen of polish and professionalism underlying their DIY sensibilities. It’s the sound of a band who have paid their dues to the underground and to the transitional years of establishing their title, one that showcases that they have ironed out the awkward kinks of forging a reputation for themselves. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the group are currently enjoying the spoils of a tight and dotted fanbase back on the west coast of the states. The group’s take on punk tinged alt-pop is unchallenging and idyllically pleasant, but yet, The Fright’s hint towards hidden substantial depth within this set, a kind of sonic chemistry that hints towards a promising career on our shores. It’s a salt and sun kissed set, one that’s perfect to thaw out a crowd that's impatient of tonight’s headliner and one that courtesy of a band that’s ready to bring their sound to new, foreign lands and territories. This run may be the band’s second run within our country, but it clearly won’t be the last.
Despite the broad range of demographics gathered within the Bristol O2 tonight, it’s crystal clear that everyone within this venue at one point pledged allegiance to the technicolor that was the emo movement of the early 21st century. Whilst the majority have left the ranks of the once bustling subculture for more acceptable social norms, once Taking Back Sunday (8) launch into the adolescent and bombastic sugar rush of ‘You Know How I Do’ everyone within the confines of this venue regresses into a younger and more wild version of themselves. Gone are both the worries and woes of modern life, as this performance of 2002’s monumental Tell All Your Friends does truly transpire to be the celebration that was promised. Even with this being the final date of the UK run and even with Tell All Your Friends now being a ripe 16 years old, Taking Back Sunday radiate ecstatic hyperactive energy, animating this timeless release with fervent vibrancy.
With the entirety of this venue collectively losing their now adolescent minds to the immortal emo war cry that is ‘Cute Without The E’, it becomes evident just how crucial this record was to the global emo scene of the early 21st century. Even with the average age of this crowd being one that’s distant from the naive angst of teenage puberty, Tell All Your Friends was clearly eminently vital to the development of the majority gathered. Clearly understanding the significance of their debut release, frontman Adam Lazzara only further animates the energy radiated by offering quips and tales about the history of the record. With the guise of a maniacal preacher, one out to spread tge good news of young, reckless hedonism, Lazzara embodies the experienced connectivity of this band with a theatrical prose.
Photo: Kieran Gallop
As the group swerve from the turbulent outburst of ‘Timberwolves of New Jersey’ to the bitter angst of ‘The Blue Channel’ before rounding off the rendition of the album with ‘You’re So Last Summer’ and ‘Head Club’, a fact becomes evident as the group enter the tail end of this set. The group are perfectly able to reanimate the feelings of such youthful angst that was synonymous with Tell All Your Friends and it’s respective era without reverting to the redundancy of being a nostalgia act. Yes, of course to witness the performance of Tell All Your Friends is a trip into the murky waters of nostalgia, but the band are more than just an act who brought emo into the eye of the contemporary conscious all those years ago. The transition between Tell All Their Friends and more newer, recent material is seamless and effortless. Of course, as with any set dedicated to the full performance of an album, it’s inevitable that many fan favourites will be absent from the respective setlist. However, the selection of tracks Taking Back Sunday have handpicked for this set perfectly represent both their legacy and honed skills.
The exotic melodies of 2016’s ‘Tidal Wave’ and ‘You Can’t Look Back’ only compliment the more time honed selections presented here, with choice cuts from Louder Now and Where You Want To Be physically, sonically and theatrically demonstrate the profound career this band has enjoyed. With tracks such as ‘A Decade Under The Influence’, ‘Set Phasers To Stun’, ‘What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost’ and ‘All Ready To Go all being aired to a critical reception, it’s a fantastic selection of work that spans their discography and highlights the prowess this band harness. As the group close with the abiding anthem of ‘MakeDamnSure’, a track that has inevitably proved to be the soundtrack for many a heartbreak experienced by punters tonight, this evening’s performance is not only a celebration of the band’s twentieth anniversary, it’s also a celebration of a subculture that was crucially vital to the development of the global alternative scene.