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Alkaline Trio / Taking Back Sunday - O2 City Hall, Newcastle 01.03.2022

Hey gig barrier, it's been a while, hasn't it?

Coming back to see gigs feels odd after having the last two years stolen away from us. I know restrictions were eased last year but my brain wasn't ready to be around people after shunning them for so long. But I'm finally ready for my first proper gig back.

Back in March 1988 I had my first gig experience watching Magnum at Newcastle City Hall and I'm back there now. 34 years has seen some changes in the venue with the O2 recently purchasing it and turning it into their new base of operations in town. The old seating has been ripped out of the floor of the room, some new venue security measures as well as a new bar being added. It's still a room with a hell of a lot of history that's worth looking into if you have the time and the inclination. Tonight though my gig drought is being broken by the first night of a UK tour by US Punk legends Alkaline Trio, a favourite of my partner who's been introduced/dragged to see many bands that I enjoy so here I'm am aquiescing to her tastes.

First up are Destroy Boys, full of of vim and vigour. The West Coast quartet have three albums to draw from and they waste no time. Frontwoman and guitarist Alexia Roditis is front and centre catching everyone's attention while co-guitarist Violet Mayugba has possibly the biggest grin I've ever seen on anyone's face. Their set is short but spiky, drawing from a deep pool of California Punk and Post Hardcore influences. They're tight and hooky, Alexia leaves her guitar behind for a couple of songs, allowing her to prowl the stage and up to the barrier. There's even some chat about how much they love the cemeteries here as they're older than what they're used to. They win over some fans tonight which is a good thing for them and I hope they're able to build on that for their next trip here.

Taking Back Sunday have clocked up several releases over twenty years, walking onstage the musicians are welcomed warmly with grins shared across the band and audience. Everyone looks happy to be there, something that vocalist Adam Lazzara alludes to (he seems particularly chuffed that he's finally not trapped at home with Twitter for company). They kick off with "What's It Feel Like To Be AGhost?" and immediately they have the crowd eating out of their hand. Guitarist John Nolan is a ball of energy pacing back and forth while touring guitarist Nathan Cogan acts as his perfect foil. Rhythm section Shaun Cooper (bass) and Mark O'Connell (drums) lock in and nail the groove. At times they mine a deep Southern Rock vein but mixed with a modern vibe but all eyes are focused on Lazzara. The man never stops moving or swinging his microphone around (there were a few moments were I became a little worried about the security guy stood at front of the stage). Even stood at the mic stand his hands and arms are constantly gesticulating, hypnotising. There's a strong feeling of fun as they play. The band sound tight but the vocals sound a little lost at times. I thought it may have just been me but I heard similar observations from others at the venue too. That doesn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits though. They pepper their set with various songs from their back catalogue. Heading into the final straight, the band drop an excellent cover of Weezer's "My Name Is Jonas" before finishing with a 1-2 punch of "Cute Without The 'E' (Cut From The Team)" and "MakeDamnSure". They're all grins as they take leave of the stage knowing they've won over a predominantly Punk crowd with some great tunes.

After a quick change over the house lights dim as PiL's "Rise" pumps through the PA. Alkaline Trio take the stage swiftly. They take no prisoners as they dive straight into crowd favourite "Private Eye" and the crowd lap it up. Matt Skiba looks as though he's won first place in a Captain Sensible lookalike contest with bassist Dan Andriano looking dapper in a shirt and checked trousers as if he's just wandered on from a local golf course. Derek Grant is a little more practical in his attire, letting the dual frontmen take the spotlight.

Songs come thick and fast with the band showing a no-nonsense approach. "We've Had Enough" and "Blackbird" follow swiftly. There's not much chat between songs other than a few thank yous. I think the longest chat comes courtesy of a small doll that's thrown into the stage with the band claiming it as a voodoo effergy of Derek before it's gently thrown at him.

It's clear though that they're having fun. Although Skiba seems to be the focus of many, Dan holds his own and sings every third or fourth song of the set, starting with "Every Thug Needs A Lady". It makes for a good dynamic that works really well and gives the band an extra dimension.

Their full career is given a thorough going over. Skiba's songs are a mix of Gothic-Emo-Punk with Dan drawing more from a broken-hearted romantic background. Deeper selections from their back catalogue are also given airing, like the pairing of "Cringe" and "Clavicle" mid-set. "Emma" is also a highlight with my girlfriend squealing excitedly as it's a song she never thought she'd hear them play live (she's also called Emma so you can understand why she was really happy).

After the main set closer of "This Could Be Love" the band bounce off to return a couple of moments later. A few technical issues with Matt's guitars and radio pack mean that their two song encore will have to be shortened. The audience are given a choice between "Time To Waste" and "Radio" with the former going over as the people's choice.

Everyone leaves the venue feeling happy, filled to the brim with Punk Rock love. We all snake off into the night in good spirits. It feels like the two year gap between most people being at gigs has left people thankful for what they have and pleased that we're all able to pick this back up. Other than a few niggles around the sound I never heard anyone complaining. It's almost like covid robbed the world of time but left us instead with a gift of feeling thankful for what we possibly may have taken for granted before all of this.

Photos - G's Gig Photos

Review - Scott Hamilton


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