CONCERT REVIEW Grab Your Studded Belts, Kids…

…Mom and Dad Are Takin’ You to a Show

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All-American Rejects guitarist, Nick Wheeler, sports an undoubtedly outdated haircut. Regardless, the band played a rocking headlining set in Foxboro, Mass. on November 10.
Dave Fernholz

Taking Back Sunday & All-Amercan Rejects

Showcase Live, Foxboro, Mass.

November 10, 2009

Have you ever seen an eight-year-old child headbanging? Ever had a bearded, screaming stranger claim that he could be your own personal therapist? Ever seen an eleven-year-old wearing a shirt declaring that “The All-American Rejects Are Really Good Looking”? If so, you probably need professional help, but you might also have attended Taking Back Sunday and the All-American Rejects’ concert at the intimate Showcase Live last week.

After missing the first opening act, Anberlin, due to a GPS-related disaster, my intrepid photographer and I found ourselves at the Showcase Live in Foxboro. We arrived just as the second opener, Taking Back Sunday, stormed the stage amidst an ear-crunching cacophony of adolescent screaming. The band jumped right into a brief but excellent set, featuring a number of solid rock songs, and their music was really excellent. The “emo” style of screaming which is so obnoxious when heard on a recording is considerably more manageable in a live setting, and their sound was much heavier and fuller than I had expected. Virtually all aspects of Taking Back Sunday’s too-brief set were great, and I was extremely impressed.

Demographically, the concert was essentially identical to the premier of one of the “Twilight” movies, proving once again that electric guitars and cheesily sensitive lyrics have powerful effects on the youth of America. Unsurprisingly, a large contingent of the audience were almost certainly parents, although it was amusing to imagine that a large group of 50-somethings with beer-bellies were extremely moved by the lyrics “The notes are old / They bend they fold / And so do I to a new love.”

It was also great to see a small number of real, living, emo kids in attendance, as going to a Taking Back Sunday concert and not seeing an emo kid is like going to a hockey game and not seeing a fistfight: you may still have a good time, but you’re really missing some of the key experiences. Having the opportunity to see some live emo kids in Massachusetts was excellent, as I was able to witness some bondage pants, studded belts, and eyeliner junkies without having to deal with the chemical refineries, traffic conditions, and violent crimes which make trips to New Jersey (the emo kid’s natural habitat) such a pleasure.

After a brief break, the All-American Rejects took the stage. The arrival of their lead singer, the rail thin Tyson Ritter, created many more questions than it answered: “Is that guy covered in sweat, or so much glitter that it’s reflecting the stage lights? Did he steal his pants from a third grader? Is he auditioning for a UNICEF commercial, a B-list porno, or both?” Weighing in at a shirtless 85 lbs. and covered in a seizure-inducing heap of glitter, Ritter effortlessly slipped along the fine line between a 1984 Van Halen video and a PSA on the dangers of anorexia. Additionally, his strange appearance and bizarre mannerisms (namely, hip thrusting at a bunch of clearly adoring high-schoolers while calling them “naughty girls”) managed to simultaneously channel both Michael Jackson and a heroin addict.

That said, I must admit that the Rejects’ music sounds far more substantial live than I had anticipated. I began the night expecting a Miley Cyruszian bonanza of horrifically auto-tuned abominations, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their music. While nowhere near as heavy as Taking Back Sunday, the All-American Rejects’ live guitar sounds seem to have at least partially escaped the commercial castration that only MTV can provide. Ritter did occasionally go off on bizarre yodeling solos, but he balanced these vocal histrionics with some solid performances, most notably the acoustic ballad “Mona Lisa,” which was actually quite a lovely song.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed this evening at Showcase Live. While the amount of high school shrieking at the start and end of each song still reverberates in my ears like a demonic version of High School Musical, both bands certainly exceeded my expectations with regard to their music and delivered solid, enjoyable performances.