Live Review: Taking Back Sunday, Acceptance, Endless Heights

20 March 2017 | 9:27 am | Mitch Knox

"Taking Back Sunday are a band at last at peace with who they are."

More Taking Back Sunday More Taking Back Sunday

Sydney's Endless Heights are a band filled with promise, but there are underlying issues with their performance at present that are holding them back from realising their full potential.

As they thunder through a series of tunes that alternately seem to draw inspiration from the likes of Boysetsfire, Thursday and Deftones, among others, frontman Joel Martorana's efforts at conveying a commanding presence become distracting at best. There's more to being a capable centre-point than drawing on an array of fight-dancing moves and exaggerated hand gestures to hold an audience's attention, and it should begin here with worrying more about landing the notes than perfecting mic swings (one of which collides with a nearby stand with a loud, sad thud).

US visitors Acceptance, however, mark a point of stark contrast as a highly polished and professional group of performers who effortlessly raise the bar for the night's proceedings. So Contagious — from the band's 2005 debut, Phantoms — marks an early highlight, generating a healthy sing-along from those in the crowd, as does new cut Fire & Rain, from their 2017 sophomore, Colliding By Design. These guys have overcome much over the past 12 years — including a lengthy break-up/hiatus — and it's an absolute pleasure to see them in action (and crushing it) tonight. It's an unlikely outcome not lost on Acceptance themselves, with frontman Jason Vena paying repeated thanks to tonight's headliners (and the audience) for making it possible.

Now seven albums deep into their career (and with their original, reformed line-up now responsible for more than half that oeuvre), Taking Back Sunday are a band at last at peace with who they are. Whatever inner tumult both plagued and blessed the group's early work seems to have long been laid to rest and, seven years on from the return of once-departed members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper, it's clear that chief on the agenda for these five long-time friends is simply having fun — with their audience, with each other, with performing in general.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

It's evident from the outset that we're in for a solid catalogue dive tonight as the band kick off proceedings with the pulse-raising Death Wolf, from their latest LP (and tour namesake) Tidal Wave, before immediately taking us back 11 years to 2006's Louder Now, with the eagerly received Liar (It Takes One To Know One). You Can't Look Back further demonstrates the strength of their new material but the ensuing enthusiastic response for debut-era crowd favourite Timberwolves At New Jersey informs an educated guess about the prevailing age bracket of the fans in attendance tonight.

Frontman Adam Lazzara takes intermittent breaks to chat with the crowd, cutting a consistent figure of genuine warmth and appreciation for the opportunity to be playing in this city, in this country, with these people, and it truly becomes the Adam & John Show as Lazzara and Nolan display their formidable dual-vocal work, upon which Taking Back Sunday first built a chunk of their notoriety. Sure, Lazzara's voice has deepened somewhat over the years, and he doesn't necessarily punch the high notes with the kind of power or reliability that he once did, but his overall vocal ability has come leaps and bounds from his accidentally hilarious enunciation circa 2002.

That's not to undersell the contributions of fellow band members Cooper (bass), Mark O'Connell (drums) or Eddie Reyes (guitar) — all three play their roles superbly and non-invasively, thundering away in the mid- and background with casual aplomb — but it's hard to not expend most focus on the men centre and stage right. There's a briefly awkward moment when Nolan — likely (or hopefully) unaware of the recent controversy surrounding the brew — enthuses that he "can't get enough of" Coopers beer, before the next chronological ping-pong of What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?, A Decade Under The Influence and "dance number" All Excess makes us forget all about it.

Another old gem, You're So Last Summer, reignites the crowd once more, and the ceaselessly endearing Lazzara precedes newbie Call Come Running with a sweet anecdote about asking his dad to be involved in its "rock'n'roll video" (which he concludes with an offhand, "That's my story, and it went over much better last night, but that's OK!").

Set Phasers To Stun, from 2004's Where You Want To Be, really hammers home what a good job then-guitarist Fred Mascherino did of approximating Nolan's vocal style on that album, as hearing this track — and, later, album-mate 180 By Summer, both being standout inclusions tonight — with Nolan actually in the mix is an unexpectedly familiar delight. The deeply personal Better Homes & Gardens attracts warm appreciation from the enthralled punters before the driven, rollicking beat of Tidal Wave washes over us, buoying us towards the finish line.

The band ostensibly close their set with Louder Now pleaser My Blue Heaven and a tale about Lazzara inviting Chris Hemsworth to the show to no avail ("I put the invite out there and he didn't show… I just assume he's doing something very handsomely") before forgoing the usual ceremony of walking offstage and feigning humility about their inevitable encore.

Instead, they straight-up give the people what they want, serving up a deafeningly received stab at quintessential favourite Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team) and one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night. Taking Back Sunday ultimately say farewell with MakeDamnSure, the band smiling and waving as they depart the stage having given us a satisfyingly comprehensive compendium of their eventful career to date, and leaving us hopeful for the continued fruitfulness of their enduring camaraderie.