In January when Taking Back Sunday and The Used announced that they were hitting the road together for this tour fans were beyond excited. Tickets for the shows began selling out shortly after going on sale and more dates were eventually add including multiple nights for New York City. Both bands have since seen the release of their new albums;Taking Back Sunday’s Happiness Is and The Used’s Imaginary Enemy, which only added fuel to the fire for people getting exited about this tour but one question remained? Who would close the show out and would someone’s favorite band have to play shorter because of a rotating tour slot? Turns out it didn’t matter who played last because both bands played equal amounts of time and blew all expectations of this tour out the damn window.
The Used were first up at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center stop. To say that this band has grown since their last stop at the Lehigh Valley would be a gross understatement. Fans of the Used will know that they were last in town in 2012 for their tour in support of their previous album, Vulnerable. During that tour the played to a fairly packed Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown, a lot smaller of a venue than the Sands. The band was of course on last summer’s Vans Warped Tour but that doesn’t really come to close to the area so I’m not going to count that, their set on Warped was a lot of fun though and we saw the beginning of the band changing their live set with the working in of paint. To be sell out the Sands just two years after playing a small club venue is a truly remarkable feat and it shows that The Used have done a great job at reconnecting and engaging their fans.
The first song of their setlist was a new track off Imaginary Enemy titled “Cry.” The song features a lot of diverse aspects but stays true the band’s overall sound despite the fact that the lyrical content is more charged with meaning than ever before. Their setlist wasn’t filled with new songs but “Revolution” made what very well could have been it’s live debut on this tour, the band didn’t want to focus too heavily on these new songs as they said themselves early on the night. Bert McCracken wanted to make every fan take something away from the show, even the old school fans who got treated to solid performances of “The Taste of Ink” and “I Caught Fire.”
In between songs Bert often took time to interact with the crowd through all sorts of means, we got treated to a couple of stories about the album, some fun chant and responses and most importantly some real meaningful words. There is something to be said for how much The Used really care about things; this extends to all walks off life, their fans, the world, and the music industry. Bert said that everyone should go home and steal their album from someone rich to give to someone poor so they have something to listen too. Imaginary Enemy as a whole is a very heavy album in terms of meaning and the band worked a lot of these messages into their set but didn’t try to force it on the crowd. They encourage them to honestly just see how screwed up the world is we live in and I can’t think of a better way to do that then with their music.
The night wasn’t all talk though, the most important part of their set was the music. Technically, this was the best I have ever seen The Used perform. As a whole they interacted as a band more than I had ever seen them do so before and Bert seems to be in great shape from all the constant touring they have been doing which helped his performance out greatly. The night was full of moshpits and even a wall of death on “Pretty Handsome Awkward,” however the most heartfelt moment of the evening came during their performance of “On My Own.” The song is at it’s core a very emotional song but when Bert chocked up on the lyrics it looked like he was shedding a tear and he just kept going added a level of emotion to the song that just doesn’t exist on the studio album. The band closed their set out with the fan favorite “A Box Full of Sharp Objects” mixed with a little Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine. Just like that they walked off leaving the sold out crowd in the Sands Bethlehem Event Center with a killer show and a lot to think about.
The Used are in better form than they have ever been and their music is also more relevant than ever before which has allowed them to fuel themselves into this massive run of success. I hope that when they come back they work a few more songs off Imaginary Enemy into the set but in all honesty that would be the only thing to make what was a perfect show even more perfect. The Used can still throw down harder than any other band in this genre.
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A short set change over followed The Used and fans began preparing them for the close of the evening, Taking Back Sunday. Very few fans left after The Used which was great to see the fans sticking around to catch both sets and enjoy the night. I had feared that it being the night before Easter Sunday would cause fans to leave early but that fear turned to be nothing more than fiction because the crowd hardly shed 100 people during the 20 minute change over.
Taking Back Sunday’s entrance was theatrical, that is for sure. The lights went black and their back lights began flickering to life in spurts of color as the band began to walk out across the stage. In a blinding fashion all of the lights, both front and backed, turned alive and the band started off singing “Stood A Chance,” a new song from Happiness Is. Just like The Used the crowd interaction began on the first song and lasted the whole night. Adam Lazarra danced from one send of the stage to the other and made sure he gave every fan within his vision plenty of attention. That is of course when he wasn’t spinning his microphone around like a mad man. I have seen hundreds of singers play with their microphones when they aren’t singing but I don’t think any compare to what Adam does with it. Just in the first three songs alone I saw it go flying out over the crowd, get whipped around his arm a dozen times and eventually get wrapped around his neck.
Taking Back Sunday’s setlist was for the fans, there is no questioning that fact. Yes, it was louded with songs from Happiness Is but old school fans got their fix as well with songs such a “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)” and “You Know How I Do” making the final cut. It gets very hard for band’s with such a large discography to make a setlist that appeases everyone but they managed to do it and still push a handful of new songs too which is no small feat to accomplish.
Overall their set was just as good was The Used’s though I don’t feel it is fair to compare the two because their energy and music style is different, in a good way. Taking Back Sunday was a lot more light hearted and there is really something to be said for just how much fun it was to watch them perform. You could see smiles on all of their faces as well thanks to their the Sands large projection screens and I think fans fed of that happiness in the performance. Plenty of times Adam stopped singing and just let the crowd take over because they were doing so in perfect time and with such loudness that it was almost overbearing.
On about the 4th or 5th song Adam reached out to a fan in the front row who was spending all of her time recording the show on her phone instead of enjoying the show. Adam asked her to simply put the phone away because there was no way that the 5 inch device could “contain him.” It was a pretty funny moment but I see his point; you are in the front row of a sold out concert just put the phone away and live. Sure, snap a photo or a quick video to send to a friend but don’t let a 3 inch screen ruin a performance that was meant to be seen with your own eyes. Major props to Taking Back Sunday for calling attention to the issue through this light hearted way because it is quickly becoming a plague at concerts and has to be annoying for them to see from onstage too.
Taking Back Sunday have had a rocky few years with some critics saying that their performances have been on a downward spiral but the release of Happiness Is marks a new chapter in the band’s legacy. The album was a success, this tour was a success and the band is back on track delivering amazing performances to sold out crowds in mid-size arena. There has been no official announcement as of yet but maybe fans will see the band this summer on the Vans Warped Tour, the timing is right for their return to the annual tour but we won’t know if that is reality or just a pipe dream until Warped makes a few more announcements later this month.
Regardless, Taking Back Sunday and The Used added another great performance to the Sands Bethlehem Event Center history books and it is safe to say that both bands can expect another sell out crowd when they return to the venue in the future.
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