Taking Back Sunday Took the House of Blues

The band played a sold-out performance over the weekend, complete with Adam Lazzara’s signature microphone-swinging antics and old hits interspersed with new. But despite the throwbacks, they insist they’re not a “nostalgia act.”

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

Taking Back Sunday has produced six full-length albums over the span of their 15-year-old career, but their most recent effort, Happiness Is, contains the band’s first love song—or as close as they can come to one, at least—devoid of any “mean twists” that lead singer Adam Lazzara says used to unintentionally find their way in.

“These songs came out pretty straightforward, which is something I was proud of because [this album marks] the first time we’ve ever had that,” he said, sitting in a green room inside the House of Blues a few hours before the band’s sold-out performance last Saturday. “It’s a tough thing to do because I feel like when you’re writing like that, you’re walking a really thin line between being cheesy and being sincere, and I guess we were just ready to walk that line.”

Perched on the couch next to him, guitarist John Nolan, who in 2010 rejoined the band alongside bassist Shaun Cooper seven years after their departure, reflected on the reunion of the original lineup as offering more of a fresh start rather than a revival of old ways.

“In some ways it feels like we’re a different band than we were originally, and then in other ways, nothing’s changed at all, with the way everyone’s interacting,” he said. “But yeah, my sense is that we’re a band that’s just put out our second album.”

A few things have changed for Taking Back Sunday over the past 15 years, from their music—in addition to experimenting more direct lyrics, the band also collaborated with a violinist on Happiness Is—to their personal lives. As Lazzara and bandmates prepared for the show on Saturday, his wife Misha entertained their sons, pushing the infant around in a stroller outside on Lansdowne Street.

“Ideally, we’d just bring everybody all the time,” said Lazzara about his family, who was accompanying him for just a few northeast shows. “It gets harder and harder to leave each time.”

Nolan expressed similar feelings about his own family, whom he plans to bring on tour during later dates in the south. “I try to focus on the fact that I’m so fortunate to be able to go on tour, and provide for my wife and my son, and actually make a living doing something that I love,” he said. “I try to think about that and not about how horribly sad I am that I’m not seeing my baby.”

For fans who listened to the band’s earlier records while growing up, seeing a Taking Back Sunday show these days—especially during their current co-headlining tour with The Used, who rose to popularity around the same time, in the early 2000s—may be likely to produce a feeling of nostalgia that’s hard to shake. But the band insists that they try to stay away from that.

“I think there’s a thing that people want us to be a nostalgia act—I don’t want that at all,” said Nolan. “There’s always the connection from the old days, and that’s fine, but I think we have to be conscious of moving forward and not just caving in to that.”

Although they prefer to incorporate more of the new material into their live shows, the band makes sure to include older hits as well, picking and choosing a couple from each record.

“I think that the mix of old songs that we play is a pretty solid representation of those records,” said Lazzara. “It’s definitely a challenge when you’re introducing a new song into the set because folks want to hear the songs that they know, that they’re really familiar with, but over time that changes.”

At the House of Blues on Saturday, fans crowd surfed and sang along to both old and new songs, while Lazzara entertained them with his signature microphone-swinging antics.

“It’s actually cool—you’ll see anybody from the ages of 15 to 35. There are folks who have been there with us since the beginning, and then I think I see people who are just discovering us now,” he said. “As a band, we just have to keep moving forward, and then just hope people follow us.”

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

 Fans lined up on Lansdowne Street before the sold-out show. 

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Photo by Olga Khvan

Frontman Adam Lazzara kept the crowd entertained, constantly moving around the stage.

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

Bassist Shaun Cooper rejoined the band alongside guitarist John Nolan in 2010.

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

 For guitarist John Nolan, returning to the original lineup sometimes feels like being in a “different band.”

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

 The early show at the House of Blues—Taking Back Sunday took the stage before 8 p.m.—attracted a crowd that included underage attendees.

taking back sunday

Photo by Olga Khvan

“Always for us, just in the northeast, those shows tend to be some of the best ones for us,” said Lazzara. “It just seems like everybody enjoys it as much as we do.” 

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