LIVE: Taking Back Sunday / Lonely The Brave @ Koko, London [26/02/14]

By Ben Tipple

Any band, regardless of their genre, are destined to divide opinion. It is testament however, to both their adoring fan-base and their frustrated fan-base that Taking Back Sunday can incite drastically contrasting emotions at the same time. Ask anyone waiting outside London’s Koko on this cold evening what they are expecting, and those who have stuck with the band since ‘Tell All Your Friends’ will have one answer: great songs and a mediocre performance.

Taking Back Sunday have been plagued by mediocrity in recent years, regardless of the quality of their recorded material. Now notorious sets at Reading and Leeds back in 2011 and the enjoyable, if not off-key, performances at Slam Dunk 2012 have left lingering clouds over the band’s reputation, not least that of frontman Adam Lazzara.

With ‘Happiness Is’ hitting shelves in the middle of March, there’s a lot to play for tonight. Rebuilding a damaged reputation is not an easy task.

Lonely The Brave are no strangers to supporting internationally known acts – they have shared the stage with the likes of Deftones and Bruce Springsteen, all before releasing their debut full-length. They are also no strangers to contrasting sounds – their hugely atmospheric expansive rock sharing little in common with tonight’s headliners. Combined with disappointing sound and vocalist David Jakes’ subdued stage-presence, there is little on offer to really grab the audience.

That said, recognised material such as ‘Black Saucers’ receive a hushed cheer from a handful of audience members, and its ever-impossible to deny the power of their tracks. As understated as the performance may be, Lonely The Brave still manage to pull it off with the songs themselves. By closing the set with the epic post-rock-esque ‘The Blue, The Green’, at least some onlookers will have been turned on to something new this evening.

“Understated” is not a word that could be used to describe Lazzara’s stage presence. Running around the stage with his microphone regularly airborne, there is evident glee on his face as the likes of ‘A Decade Under The Influence’ and ‘You’re So Last Summer’ engulf the venue. Thousands of voices bounce the lyrics back to the stage, as the atmosphere becomes truly electric. As expected, the biggest reactions are reserved for the older material, and there is a telling lack of material from ‘New Again’; however newest single ‘Flicker, Fade’ and the rarely performed ‘Call Me In The Morning’ – taken from the band’s self-titled effort – still leave many voices ablaze.

Both instrumentally and vocally Taking Back Sunday are leaps and bounds ahead of where they have been in the recent past. There are the occasional dips in quality – Lazzara sometimes searches for breath and brand new track ‘Beat Up Car’ sits awkwardly between ‘One Eighty By Summer’ and ‘Cute Without The E’ – yet on the whole this mini-tour has seen a refreshing return to form.

Whether ‘Happiness Is’ will live up to expectation remains to be seen, but in the meantime Taking Back Sunday fans can rest in the knowledge that, at least for now, the band are back in more ways than one.