The talent's in "The Middle" at American University

April 22, 2005, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 15 years, 9 months ago

Taking Back Sunday avenges billing slight with only lively set of the night

American University's Bender Arena, despite its name, is, well, it's a basketball court. Patriots League banners hang around the entire perimeter, and on one side you can see the swimming pool from your seat. It is also a fairly nice place to hold a concert, what with its spacious floor and side-seating for wearier legs. Last night, the Arena traded basketball sweat and squeaks for those of the concert variety, in addition to the vague musty smell of dirt-trodden tarps that covered the floor. On the bill: rock/poppers The Format opening for the stuffed double bill of emo-punk behemoths Taking Back Sunday (who were, strangely, left off Ticketmaster info) and Jimmy Eat World.

The Format, a five-piece from Phoenix, opened energetically enough, croon/strum/shaking their way through a mildly infectious six songs or so before their frontman uttered the fateful words: "This is a slow song." The audience lost interest and found a disinterested murmur about five minutes in, and the song just kept rumbling slowly along, finally fading like the lights from the screens of the faux-lighter cell phones. They bowed out respectfully enough, albeit with some prodding ("This is a dance number for those of you who want to groove a little." (Translation: Please start cheering and jumping benignly again)).

After the dropping of the polka-dotted "The Format" sheet from the curtain and some minimal dis- and re-assembly, the lights dimmed once more and Taking Back Sunday launched into a raunchy, flailing, convulsing set that was to be the highlight of the night. Taking Back Sunday had obviously been around the concert block: Their set was a perfect blend of old and new, the ear-searing and the merely catchy. They played classics, they played upcoming releases, they packed the floor with fans screaming every lyric. By the time TBS got to their slow song, the swelling "New American Classic," fans were so worn out from thrashing about to mosh anthems like "Bonus Mosh Pt. 2" and "One-Eighty By Summer," and from launching themselves repeatedly to bounce-inducers "Set Phasers to Stun" and "You're So Last Summer," that the breather was not only welcome but altogether necessary. TBS hedged its bets with blinding strobe lights, scrolling light-text, witty singer-singer banter, and Adam Lazarra's crazy microphone antics. Finale "A Decade Under the Influence," while expected, was a sublime way to end the nearly 90-minute set.

So when Jimmy Eat World stepped to the plate, the bar had been set pretty astronomically high. And while JEW might have brushed it with their fingertips, on a couple of occasions, mainly it was a lot of falling action. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, the action peaked in the middle, and the late acts left one wondering "Why did this happen?"

JEW led with a cheeky little intro bit involving lead singer Jim Adkins alone on stage singing a passage from Futures. Out came another guitarist and bassist, who played an older song along with Jim, and then finally the curtain was lifted, revealing the drummer, a neon background get-up drawn from the liner notes of new album "Futures" and opening flourish "Bleed American." The band got through "Bleed" and another song, unrecognized by this reporter, before finally hitting a track off "Futures," the earnest and anthemic "Work." JEW's set displayed this lack of adequate planning several times, as the band stumbled through several weaker tracks (obscure "Get It Faster," flaccid "A Praise Chorus") and left a lot of new and strong material off the bill entirely. They didn't even get to smash-single "Pain" until the encore, and underscored that with the stronger "Sweetness" to rub salt in the wound. All told, JEW played as many tracks off 2001's self-titled number as they did off August 2004's "Futures," leaving a show supposedly in support of a new album surprisingly hollow.

At the end of JEW's disappointingly-timed encore, exits flew open and over-expensive t-shirts flew off the merch table. Ears ringing, starry-eyed teenage girls and sweaty teenage guys meandered toward the exits. It was a good night for AU, and a good night for music; at a beautiful 75 degrees, it was a good night to simply be alive. If only all bands involved could have held their end.

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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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