Taking Back Sunday takes me back – and I don’t feel Used

Taking Back Sunday and The Used co-headlined a tour this spring. I went to their second show at the Hollywood Palladium on March 27. It was everything I expected, and oh so much more. 

Adam Lazzara never looks more at home than when he’s strutting around a stage. At the Hollywood Palladium, on a cool March evening, he smiles at the crowd like they’ve just given him a Grammy. He saunters from side to side, smiling ear-to-ear, and speaking in that seductive southern drawl.

“How are ya’ll doing tonight, ladies and gentlemen?” Lazzara asks, smirking as he talks.

The crowd roars back their approval. A group of drunk girls (all wearing matching denim short-shorts, pin straight hair, and t-shirts they bought at the merch booth) push their way toward the stage, angering everyone they stumble into. The band might be over a decade old, but their audience is barely over drinking age. 

Dispersed through the crowd are “frat bros” pounding back their $7 Bud Light’s in tank tops (which clearly used to be t-shirts.) They mingle with the mass of hipster couples, all wearing matching skinny jeans and old Chuck Taylors. The oldest crowd member comes shackled to over excited teenagers. Strangely, the overwhelming majority of the crowd are hipsters, nodding their heads and feigning boredom.

This is the fifth time I’ve seen Taking Back Sunday, and everything about them felt the same the instant the first chord hit. I’m not saying they performed the same cookie cutter set. I’m saying the energy, excitement, and pure, unadulterated joy they had seven years ago is still there.

They hit all the fan favorites with this electrifying passion that spread through the crowd. When they hit those first few notes of “Liar Liar” the building explodes with cheers, a small mosh pit opens in the center of the floor (and teen girls flee from the flailing limbs).

“Cute Without The E” makes its appearance later in the set, and of course they end the show with “Makedamnsure.” They, of course, throw in a few songs off their newest album Happiness Is, but the only real difference between the new songs and old are the lyrics.

When the lights rise after the band leaves the stage, the crowd shuffles around searching for bathrooms and more beer. The fans only there for Taking Back Sunday extract themselves from the center of the crowd. They know what’s coming when The Used take the stage, and they do not want to get in the middle of it.

Not ones to disappoint, The Used take the stage with a certain theatricality and passion they didn’t have at their height in 2006. Since seeing them on the Lies for the Liars tour, The Used changed drastically in every way.

Physically Bert McCracken no longer sports the sweat-soaked, almost dreaded locks, he chopped them off for a haircut that makes him look like the kid brother of The Misfits. Musically and emotionally the band have grown in leaps and bounds. They’ve strayed from the pissed off at the world attitude of 10 years ago. Oh, they’re still mad as hell, they’re just not gonna take it anymore.

McCracken speaks to the audience as if addressing an old friend. “How many of you have been fans since the beginning?”

Hands shoot up, and the crowd erupts in cheers so loud the already broken TV screens on stage (meant for decoration, or art, or some larger deeper meaning I missed) might just crumble.

In honor of those longtime fans The Used stick to a set comprised of their first three albums. They kick things off with “The Bird and The Worm” and then jump right into “I Caught Fire.” It’s the set list I always wanted in 2007, and now that I’ve had it, I want so much more. The band are palpably excited to be there, their energy tastes like sweat, dreams, and cigarettes. 

In true Used fashion McCracken goes off on a few tangents, (“If you’re not into anarchy your children fucking will be!”) a tirade about how the only true rockstar died 20 years ago, (RIP Kurt Cobain) and he opens up a circle pit.

But the real highlight of the night comes during the encore. The band fakes out the adoring fans, by playing the opening of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before ripping into their own song “A Box Full of Sharp Objects.” The crowd are incredibly engaged and grateful for the throwback. The Used appear to be the happiest they’ve ever been, rockstars or not.

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