By Julia Burch
When Taking Back Sunday announced a week ago that frontman Adam Lazzara would be leaving the tour due to the early birth of his son, ticket-holders for the upcoming Halloween show in St Louis were left expecting a refund. However, last week the band made an announcement on its webpage stating that Lazzara would be replaced by former Underoath singer, Spencer Chamberlain. Upon hearing this, I braced myself to write a terrible review of one of my favorite bands. I was absolutely ready to hate this show, especially since St. Louis was snubbed during the Tell All Your Friends tour in 2011.
Taking Back Sunday without Adam Lazarra just seems like a bad idea, like seeing The Foo Fighters without Dave Grohl, or Weezer without Rivers Cuomo, or U2 without... well, just seeing U2, in general. I went in skeptically, completely prepared to write a smear campaign against Christian metal-core (yep, that's a real thing) singer Spencer Chamberlain.
After reminding myself that the RFT was paying for the ticket, I headed out to the Pageant expecting a night of pure disappointment. Upon entering, the place looked more like a Halloween party than a concert venue. It makes one proud to see how much St Louis stepped it up, costume-wise. Everyone from Robin Thicke at the VMAs (or possibly Beetlejuice, the gold necklace threw me off) to Lloyd and Harry from Dumb and Dumber showed up. There was even a woman in a frock covered in very large pigeons -- I have no idea who she was supposed to be, but I was waiting for an impromptu rendition of "Feed The Birds" that would never come down the pike. The band came out onstage dressed as the Avengers, with Chamberlain dressed as Thor, and kicked off the set with "You Know How I Do" from 2002's Tell All Your Friends record.
The most enraging part of this show happened about halfway through the first song: It sounded good.
Really good. I'm sure every single fan who had googled Ticketmaster's return policy after Lazzara dropped had the same brief sense of outrage. Taking Back Sunday isn't supposed to be good without its singer. It felt like a betrayal. However, it couldn't be denied that the original lineup was as tight as you could hope for, and the vocals actually sounded like they should.
The crowd was "old" for an emo band, with most attendees in their late twenties and thirties. It seems like although the fans dropped the black eyeliner and gained 30 pounds, their loyalty didn't waiver in the past twelve years. There was less mosh and more nosh, as most of the crowd sat at tables eating peanuts rather than stage-diving, but that could've also been to avoid the blinding, seizure-inducing strobe light show running during the entire set.
Chamberlain certainly pulled off the Lazzara look, with long hair in his face, and when he was announced by backup vocalist John Nolan, Chamberlain was met with a polite, semi-puzzled round of applause. There was a general air of confusion; about half of the crowd didn't seem to have realized that a guest singer was on stage.
Chamberlain managed a decent approximation of Lazarra's stage presence as well, without overdoing it (if he had done the mic swing, I might have strangled him with the cord). He had plenty of energy and shared the mic with the crowd throughout the set. His vocals were right on target, but he wasn't trying too hard to emulate Lazarra's unique sound. He also played well to the crowd, as he praising St Louis and pointing out various costumes. The ICP costumes, he said, were "scary to see at a Taking Back Sunday show."
After Spencer sang "A Decade Under the Influence" from the album Where You Want To Be, he jumped off the stage. At that point, Joe Boynton of opening band Transit, came onstage as the guest-guest vocalist and did a nice job covering "Number 5 With A Bullet." Guitarist John Nolan then masterfully sang the next three songs, including a cover of his old band, Straylight Run's "Existentialism on Prom Night." During "Timberwolves at New Jersey" it was hard not to wish Chamberlain was back onstage for the layered vocals that help make the band sound so distinctive.
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