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Underoath & Taking Back Sunday Live Review

by Mark Hensch

The Vans Warped Tour generation was treated to an evening of emo's brightest stars on February 23rd. Eastern Michigan University hosted a concert hall full of lively fans, all overjoyed to see some of the genre's stalwarts.

Rising up-and-comers Armor for Sleep kicked things off with a surprisingly gripping performance. The band's mix of angst-drenched catharsis and catchy hooks buried under shimmering and spacious distortion worked surprisingly well, the fans responding to the earnest performance with a fervor growing with each song. Lyrically, AFS was probably the artistic zenith of the evening, the band's short set highlighted by cuts from their recent What to do when you are Dead concept album. For those not in the know, said disc was an epic journey through a character's suicide and subsequent afterlife; AFS are definitely a bit more ambitious than the typical emo crowd, and thus well worth checking out.

Next up was in my opinion the strongest act of the night, Underoath. Playing a set that was surgically precise in nature, Underoath walked a fine line between well-trod tracks off 2004's They're Only Chasing Safety and their newer, more atmospheric material on new LP Define the Great Line. The former disc's popular appeal inspired plenty of adoration from the fans, whereas the newer songs slowly but surely sparked fiery crowd participation. Expansive and stark, the majority of these newer songs show a maturity well beyond most of Underoath's peers. Overall, Underoath brought their "A" game to EMU and put out one excellent set.

Headliners Taking Back Sunday were a bit harder for me to judge. TBS are a band whose appeal I simply cannot understand; I'm just not a fan. Regardless, TBS mixed an intricate light show, layers of fog, and a huge catalog of hit singles into a dominating combination. I may not enjoy this style of music, but there is no denying TBS are top of their field; so passionate was the fan support in fact that the band could do no wrong. A shaky mix of percussion and guitars for the first few songs and frontman Adam Lazaro's inane, moronic stage banter never once dampened the spirit, and a triple-song encore ending with crowd favorite "Make Damn Sure" sent everyone home in relatively high spirits.

None of this means that the show was without faults. I would have enjoyed longer sets from both Underoath and Armor for Sleep for one; another drawback was the absolutely childish mosh pits, the likes of which were lacking in any sense of spirit or chaos at all. The ticket setup was also a mess, with tons of fans clamoring to get into the floor area and finding that such tickets were sold out; further observation revealed a floor area with plenty of extra room. The acoustics were solid but never incredible, and even the tightest of songs might sound mushy in portions, a problem that especially plagued Underoath's older, faster material. Minor quips aside, this was as fun a way to spend Friday night as any, and hopefully more renowned acts like these pass through again soon.


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