Alkaline Trio is a band I have greatly admired since my youth, but, for whatever reason, I had only ever seen live them at Warped Tour. I was eager to rectify this, so I knew I had to attend their recent stop at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on March 18th. The show landed in the middle of their current tour in support of My Shame Is True, their latest effort and (I would argue) their best in a decade, with support from Bayside and Off With Their Heads.
Like their albums as of late, Alkaline Trio's set was heavy with material with guitarist Matt Skiba on vocals. Clad in black, accented by pink Converse shoes, an inverted cross necklace and a fedora, Skiba commanded the audience. Bassist Dan Andriano also had his share of gems, and his voice was on point. Both singers added fresh backing vocals and harmonization to some of the older material when they weren't doing leads. Derek Grant, an increasingly integral element in the band, rounded out the group with his precision behind the drumkit.
The band came out with the punchy, Ramones-esque "She Lied to the FBI." It's the first track on My Shame Is True, and it makes an equally-great live opener. They went on to perform 20 songs in about 80 minutes, ranging from their latest material to old favorites. As a band with such a vast and beloved catalog, it was nice to hear them break out some deep cuts.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I'm hoping the inclusion of lesser-known Good Mourning tracks, such as "Blue Carolina" and "Donner Party," was primer for a 10th anniversary tour later this year. Other fan favorites included "Hell Yes," "Clavicle," "My Friend Peter" and "Crawl." One unexpected addition was an electric version of "Olde English 800," a catchy ditty from their acoustic album, Damnesia. I'd love to hear them record the full-band version, as it sounded great.
Although they exited the stage following "This Could Be Love," the Chicago punks returned a moment later for the best three-song encore for which a fan could ask. They came out blazing with "Cringe," followed by the beloved "Radio," which turned into a giant singalong, before closing with the first song they ever wrote as band, "97."
Bayside spent the early years of their career being endlessly compared to Alkaline Trio, pairing them together for a tour is a no brainer. They teamed up once before in 2008, and five years later both groups are as strong as ever. Bayside's supporting slot lasted 45 minutes, but the positive audience response made them look like co-headliners. Although their setlist hasn't varied much over the years, they mixed it up enough this time around to keep things interesting for returning fans and new listeners alike.
For starters, the band kicked off with "Devotion and Desire," which is often reserved for the closer. They also busted out an electric cover of Smoking Popes' "Megan," which they dedicated to Alkaline Trio. They didn't play longtime staple "Blame It on Bad Luck," instead ending with a curveball, "Dear Tragedy." Frontman Anthony Raneri passed off his guitar to a crew member and just sang the closer, something I had never seen him do. He seemed to enjoy the freedom and rocked it like a true frontman. At the end of the set, Raneri told those who hadn't heard the band before, "If you like what you hear, go home and download the records, then come back to the next show."
Alkaline Trio's Epitaph Records labelmates Off With Their Heads opened the show. Not unlike the Trio's old cohorts in Hot Water Music, the band's ferocious punk rock stylings are anchored by guitarist Ryan Young's gruff vocals. They didn't waste much time talking, instead packing as many songs as they could into their half hour allotment, drawing largely from this year's Home.
Although the majority of the audience members were unfamiliar with the material, many were converted by the end of the set. The band sent "Self Checkout" out to local heroes Dropkick Murphys and later dedicated "Jamie" to Bayside and the anthemic "Drive" to Alkaline Trio for taking them out on tour. They closed with the brutally honest "Clear the Air," and Young made the crowd believe him when he sang, "God damnit, I'm falling apart!"
During Alkaline Trio's set, Andriano stated this might be the best tour they've ever done, which is saying a lot considering their extensive history. Skiba was quick to one-up his partner's sentiment by saying that this was the best show of the tour. "You can't lie with YouTube these days," he quipped. "I shit you not!" The band has been at it for 17 years now, and their set proved that they haven't lost any steam. From new material to fan favorites and deep cuts in between, there's no shame for Alkaline Trio.
Taking Back Sunday's 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, is undeniably important to our beloved music scene. The instant classic seemed to resonate with every dejected teenager who listened. (As a hopeless romantic myself, I recall pouring over the heart-on-sleeve lyrics in my formative years.) With a combination of raw energy, chemistry, brutally honest lyrics and complementary dual vocals, the band captured lightning in a bottle. A decade later, they are releasing that lightning on the TAYF10 Tour, on which they're performing the album in its entirety. I caught the November 20th stop at Lupo's in Providence, RI.
The brief but strong line-up kicked off with The Menzingers. The band put out what is, for my money, the album of the year, On the Impossible Past, but this was my first time experiencing them live. Musically, they're not a far cry from the Americana rock of The Gaslight Anthem with a dash of Alkaline Trio, and their performance was as strong as those comparisons. Their half-hour set mostly consisted of cuts from On the Impossible Past - including my two favorites, "Obituaries" (with which they opened) and the anthemic "Casey." They closed with an older favorite, "I Was Born."
Bayside has become one of my favorite bands without me even realizing it, due to their impressive consistency. I've loved them since their debut album (Is it too early to star campaigning for a Sirens and Condolences anniversary tour in 2014?) and have seen them a many times over the years. They never disappoint; every album they put out and every show they put on is solid. This performance was no different.
It was essentially 45 minutes of fan favorites, including "Blame It On Bad Luck," "Duality," "Masterpiece," "Sick Sick Sick," "Carry On" and closer "Devotion and Desire." Frontman Anthony Raneri mentioned how Bayside came from the same Long Island scene as Taking Back Sunday and thanked them for paving the way and everything else they had done for them, whether they realized it or not, in the last 10 years.
Unlike most full album shows, Taking Back Sunday opened with the "greatest hits" portion before getting to the album. I prefer this approach, as it makes the album feel like the main event - which it is. They played 8 songs, including "MakeDamnSure," "A Decade Under The Influence," "Liar (It Takes One To Know One)" and "El Paso." Longtime friend of the band Neil Rubenstein was in attendance and lent his voice to the latter. He also stuck around to perform the backing vocals he recorded on Tell All You Friends; a welcome addition to an already-exciting line-up.
Although they had already witnessed half a set from Taking Back Sunday, the audience erupted as soon as Lazzara came in with "So sick, so sick of being tired..." from Tell All Your Friends opener "You Know How I Do." They loved all 90 minutes of the band's performance, but the single loudest moment of the night came during "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)" when the instruments dropped out for a chill-induing crowd singalong of "Why can't I feel anything from anyone other than you?"
Lazzara made his way into the crowd about halfway through the album and remained their for a handful of songs. He allowed the crowd to sing with him, danced atop the bar and eventually made his way up the balcony, all while his microphone chord zigzagged around the venue. (He's known for his mic swinging, after all.) Lazzara actually sounded better during the former half of the set, but he seemed to enjoy revisiting Tell All Your Friends - and fans sang along so loudly that it was hard to notice.
After finishing the album, the band members returned to the stage to celebrate guitarist Eddie Reyes' birthday, which was the day prior. Reyes sat back as a male dancer came out and stripped down to his underwear in front of him. The entire band, Reyes included, watched on in amusement. The group proceeded to perform of two Tell All Your Friends-era b-sides, "Your Own Disaster" and "The Ballad of Sal Villanueva." The latter may be my favorite Taking Back Sunday song, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to see it performed live. You'd never know they were rarities; most fans sang along at the tops of their lungs. It was the icing on the cake after an excellent show.
Lazzara remarked that he saw the crowd going off for all three bands, which further proves how good this line-up is. Revisiting Tell All Your Friends proved to be fun and nostalgic for both the band and its fans. The members of Taking Back Sunday relished in the audience's excitement and reciprocated with their own enthusiasm. As someone who has loved the album for a decade and counting, the TAYF10 Tour did justice to the classic.
It has been said many times that this fall (and 2011 in general) has been exceptionally good for new music. Let's not forget that the tours the artists are going on in support of those releases are equally as exciting. One of the more noteworthy line-ups as of late is a co-headlining tour between Saves the Day and Bayside with support from I Am the Avalanche and Transit. I caught the sold out show at the Royale in Boston, MA on October 8.
Opening the show was Massachusetts' own Transit. Frontman Joe Boynton said that the band hadn't had the chance to play in their home state to celebrate the release of their new album, Listen and Forgive, so they considered it their CD release show. Despite typically playing with no barricade, they received a warm reception from their hometown crowd as they split their half hour set between old and new material. They ended with "Please Head North," a fan favorite that got the crowd exited.
Up next was I Am the Avalanche. From the opening of "Brooklyn Dodgers," it was obvious that fans are happy to have the band back with their first new album in six years, Avalanche United. Perhaps no one seemed more excited than frontman Vinnie Caruana, as he was clearly joyed to sing the new songs and see fans reciprocate. The new material seems to have more energy behind it, and that translated well into the live show. Bayside's Anthony Raneri (to whom Caruana referred as "a much better singer than me") came out to sing on "Gravedigger's Argument." Their set concluded with "I Took A Beating," at the end of which Caruana called for a circle pit.
As previously mentioned, this is co-headlining run between Bayside and Saves the Day. While they alternate who closes out the show, they each play for about an hour. If the tour is in the same city two nights in a row, as it was in Boston, the bands change up their setlists a good deal to keep things interesting. I had the pleasure of attending two nights and thoroughly enjoyed them both. (Coincidentally, I think both Saves the Day's and Bayside's setlists were a little stronger on their respective "headlining" nights, but that's a matter of opinion.)
As a band with such an extensive back catalogue, it's always a surprise to see what Saves the Day will throw into their set. They are also supporting a new album, the recently released Daybreak. The end result was a handful of new songs mixed in with a healthy dose of fan favorites. Much has been said about the group's revolving members over the years, but the current line-up may very well be the best incarnation of Saves the Day yet, as cemented by the live show. Guitarist Arun Bali particularly shines, playing the older material with ease while showcasing his skills on the new songs.
Reaction to the new material was expectedly more reserved that that of old material, but a highlight of the night was witnessing the band perform "Daybreak" in its entirety. The five-part, ten and a half-minute track was executed to perfection by the band, leaving many fans in awe - although other attendees didn't seem to realize what they were witnessing. The band wrapped it up after that with "At Your Funeral" as the majority of the audience joined vocalist Chris Conley in singing along.
"Blame It On Bad Luck" is usually reserved for later in a Bayside set, so fans knew they were in for a treat when the band began their set with it. More accurately, Raneri began with it, performing the opening chorus and verse solo before being joined by his bandmates as the Bayside backdrop was released from the rafters. Their set ranged from their latest effort, Killing Time, to their early albums - although Shudder remains under-represented.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Bayside is one of the most consistent acts I've seen. Both live and on record, they never disappoint. The band is one of the few that can sound like they do on record in a live setting while still giving all their energy. Not to be outdone by Bali, Bayside guitarist Jack O'Shea is one of the standout guitarists in the scene, playing riffs and solos effortlessly. Caruana joined the band to sing his part of "The Walking Wounded" before ending the night on a high note with "Devotion and Desire."
Raneri said that, despite only being three days in, this is already his favorite tour that he has ever been on. And there's good reason for that: the line-up is one of the year's strongest, and all of the bands give it their all with no need for gimmicks. It's hitting most major markets, and I highly recommend attending if you're a fan of any act on the bill. You're guaranteed to be pleased from start to finish.
"This is the first night of the Take Action Tour. Isn't that cool?" Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri asked the excited audience at the Paradise in Boston on April 22. "We were like, 'Where can we go that people will be really excited and we can kick off this tour in style?' So, naturally, we came to Boston." The crowd roared with approval.
Although I could make plenty of arguments as to why Raneri was correct in saying that there is no better place than Boston, the truth is that anywhere is a great place for the Take Action Tour. Not only is the line-up - Bayside, Silverstein, Polar Bear Club, The Swellers and Texas In July - among the best in the tour's 10-year history, but it's always excellent to see musicians supporting a good cause. This year's charity is Sex, Etc., which provides sex education for teens.
The night started out with a (head)bang as Texas In July took the stage. As a relatively unknown metalcore band, they were the odd man out of the tour. That will likely change, however; not only did the group just release their Equal Vision Records debut, but the tour is sure to be great exposure for them. Although they seemed a bit too heavy for some of the crowd members, their breakdowns got others moshing during their 20-minute set.
The Swellers were up next. They came out to the spoken-word track "Wasted Youth" from Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell II. Because the band only had a half hour, I wish they had cut the lengthy intro in favor of another song. It was the group's first U.S. show in months (prior to this, they had toured overseas and recorded a new album), but they played a solid set and received a warm reaction from the crowd.
I was hoping to hear more material from their forthcoming Good For Me, but the lone new song they played was "The Best I Ever Had," which was released online that day. I'm glad they still throw "Bottles" from their first album into the mix. The rest of their set came from Ups and Downsizing, including my personal favorite, "2009," to end the set. The energetic song works well as a closer.
Polar Bear Club took the stage for the next 30 minutes. They played a mix of material from both of their full-lengths, concluding with a rousing performance of "Living Saints." They also played a new song, titled "Bottled Wind." If it's any indication of what's in store for their new album, Clash Battle Guilt Pride, fans will undoubtedly be pleased.
Vocalist Jimmy Stadt said that they were given notes on what to say about the tour. "'Tell a sex joke.' Anyone? I don't know a goddamn sex joke!" The raspy-voiced frontman instead expressed the band's excitement in doing their first charity tour. Between this and a spot on last year's AP Fall Ball Tour, the group seems to finally be getting some much-deserved exposure.
The tour is a co-headlining bout between Silverstein and Bayside, and on the premiere stop Silverstein played second-to-last. The Take Action alumni (they played in 2006) came out with the ferocious "Vices" and didn't let up for over 50 minutes until they ended with "Bleeds No More."
The band played a solid mix of material from each of their albums. The tunes from their new album, Rescue, fit in perfectly. They played a lot of faster songs, with bassist Billy Hamilton's backing screams giving the heavier moments a more robust sound. There was also a lighter moment in vocalist Shane Told performing an acoustic rendition of "Replace You." At one point, Told's microphone cut out so he did what anyone would do in such a situation: a stage dive.
I was impressed that the band played quick covers of Kid Dynamite's "Pits and Poisoned Apples" and American Nightmare's "Hearts" - which appear on the band's recent Record Store Day 7" (of which the band had a few copies at their merch table) - but disappointed by how clueless most of the audience was, especially since it was Boston. Nevertheless, Told said that the first show of a tour usually isn't that great, but Boston was "fucking killing it."
Bayside is easily one of the most consistent bands in the scene, both live and on record. They proved their dependability once again with their hour-long set. Raneri sounds like he could be in the studio at every show, and lead guitarist Jack O'Shea's talents are under-appreciated. The set featured choice cuts from each of their five full-lengths (although only one song - "The Ghost of St. Valentine" - from Shudder; it seems to be the black sheep of the band's catalogue, despite having some solid tracks).
The band kicked off with "Already Gone," which proved to be just as great an opener for a show as it is on their new album, Killing Time (which they were selling for only $5). Other highlights included an acoustic performance of "Don't Call Me Peanut" with plenty of crowd participation, "Masterpiece" for the old school kids and concluding with the fan favorite to "Devotion and Desire."
The tone of the night - from both the bands and the audience - was one of joy. Everyone was happy to support a great cause with an excellent line-up of music. The Swellers frontman Nick Diener said it best: "We don't have any choreographed dance moves for you. We've just got these guitars and these amplifiers and this drum set and my voice. It's not a computer; it's a real goddamn voice. So thank you for supporting real music."