If I could pin down the year that Comerica Theatre time traveled to last night for the Taste of Chaos tour, I think it would be 2003.
In 2003, Dashboard Confessional had its first top 10 album. Taking Back Sunday was still riding high on its critically acclaimed debut. Anthony Green was the lead singer of Saosin. Early November released its debut full-length album.
Last night, a decidedly young crown of former emo kids packed Comerica Theatre to see some of the best bands of that era. I'm guessing that 98 percent of the crowd was between 18 and 30 years old, and that guess may be low. Still, the crowd was energetic from the start, and every band fed off that energy and delivered it right back.
The tour itself appears to be the first time these emo progenitors were packaged together as something of a nostalgia tour for their longtime fans. who are now well into adulthood. It was also striking that this was the first kind of "rock revival" show that this generation has been given, the first of many more to follow, if previous generations are any example.
Throughout the evening there was a lot of emo, a bit of screamo, but mostly it was a hell of a lot of rock 'n' roll. Since bands like Dashboard and Taking Back Sunday were at their popular zenith, there's been something of a backlash against the sound. I've never figured out the reasoning behind that, because last night only served as a reminder of what great records came from that scene. What was amazing was the sheer energy of the event found in both the bands and the crowd. Everyone was exactly where they wanted to be, and everyone seemed to be on the same page, which isn't always the case with a near-five-hour showcase like this.
Comerica was nearly empty at 6:30 p.m. when Early November took the stage, but the pit was pretty full. Ace Enders kicked the whole night off right by screaming "Are you ready to get this night started? Are you ready to taste the chaos?" Their set was only seven songs long, but it was pure energy and a great way to kick off the evening. Enders, impressed with the crowd's enthusiasm, at one point exclaimed, "Oh my God, I feel like Bieber." He was also the first performer I've heard so far say, "Thank you for not playing Pokemon." If nothing else, after seeing their set I have to pick up last year's Imbue, because the finale of "Narrow Mouth" left a lasting sonic impression.
The award for "Most Grateful Person To Be On Stage Ever" has to go to Anthony Green, lead singer of Saosin. They were probably the loudest and most aggressive act of the night. Right from the get-go, Green was not messing around with his enthusiasm.
"Hey, we're Saosin, and we came here to fucking dance!" he shouted.
The set was total high energy and the perfect act to build up to Taking Back Sunday. Green's between-song asides were at once excitable and hilarious.
"This isn't all about me just dancing around on stage like an asshole," he said. "This is about loving music soooo much!"
The entire set was astounding, but what was more entertaining was the finale of "Seven Years" which he performed almost entirely in the pit with the crowd, slam dancing with them.
"Alright, open it up, open it up! Go fucking crazy!" he shouted as he joined the crowd.
As the song ended he laughed. "Nothing like a little adolescent male bonding."
It was time for Taking Back Sunday. All night, I had been trying to estimate if people were there more for Dashboard or TBS, and I could never really decide. What I do know is that the moment Taking Back Sunday took the stage, the crowd was instantly on its feet and never resumed sitting down the rest of the set. Their set was probably the most solidly consistent of anyone throughout the evening, and it was pure, in-your-face rock 'n' roll and one of their best sets I've ever seen. Adam Lazzara was also completely engaged with the audience. ("You guys got me all in a tizzy up here and I'm just trying to keep my shit together.")
He made more Pokemon jokes and even called out someone that screamed for "Cute Without the 'E'" toward the end of the set.
"Hey you, shut the fuck up. We played that one first, dummy. Just kidding," he said, laughing. "Where the fuck were you?"
He further joked with the audience about the guy, "Maybe he's in college and experimenting with weird shit you can't even imagine."
Lazarro had no illusions about the set, the show, or why the audience was there: "You came to the show for some nostalgic purpose." He talked about nostalgia to quell it so they could unveil the new track "Holy Water." Another new track called "Tidal Wave" later broke through the nostalgia with a sound reminiscent of the Clash or Stiff Little Fingers. It was one of the finest of the set, but it was quickly overshadowed by the finale of "MakeDamnSure."
Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba seemed downright introverted after the explosive personalities of Lazzara and Green before him, but it didn't stop from being a rock 'n' roll juggernaut as he plowed through the first five songs, beginning with "Vindicated" and ending with "Again I Go Unnoticed." The fierce intro indicated the entire set was going to be a little harder than expected, and with this crowd, that was a welcome move. The band left the stage for Carrabba to perform some acoustic songs. When the rest of group rejoined him, they exploded in the middle of the gentle "Remember To Breathe." While he returned to acoustic once more later in the set, the groove of the entire night could not be derailed. The guy could have been singing a dirge and the girls would have kept on dancing.
"We're pretty far into making a new record," Carraba announced to great fanfare before playing the acoustic "Heart Beat Here." Other surprises of the set were a cover of Coldplay's "Fix You" and "The Moon Is Down" by Carraba's pre-Dashboard band Further Seems Forever. After playing a very nearly perfect set with all the songs you would anticipate, the only indication that there would be an encore was that "Hands Down" hadn't been played yet. And that's exactly the song that ended the evening.
It's no coincidence that emo became mainstream in a post-9/11 world, and it seems that 15 years later, once again living in uncertain times, this music seems more relevant than ever. No surprise to see that there is a revival of genre happening at present. It's not difficult to see why; it's just great rock 'n' roll with lyrics reflecting intelligence of both the mind and the heart, and that kind of balance is more of what everyone needs these days. Oh, and if you're wondering how those emo kids you remember from the early days of this century turned out, it turns out they like to have as much fun at a concert as anybody else, but with more energy and an addiction to their cell phones.
Last Night: Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin, and Early November at Comerica Theatre.
Personal Bias: My record collection quickly filled with the albums from these bands from 2001-2005, so why not let the nostalgia trip take me where it wants?
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The Crowd: One of the most thoroughly young crowds I've seen at any show in the last few years. You could tell the crowd was young because they stood up at the start of Taking Back Sunday's set and never sat down for the rest of the night.
Overheard: "This show makes me feeling fucking old" from someone that looked like they had only started to shave last week.
Notebook Dump: "I'm pretty sure I'm in the background of over 100 selfies at this point."
Notebook Dump Two: "Why in the fuck is the guitarist in TBS wearing a quilted North Face winter jacket?" (It was later explained that he had food poisoning.)