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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Reveling in despair, in a good way

July 22, 2006|Eric Ducker | Special to The Times

Betrayal and loneliness have long been the language of popular music for teenagers, but Wednesday night at the Long Beach Arena, co-headliners Taking Back Sunday and Angels & Airwaves sought different remedies for these afflictions. Angels & Airwaves tried to lift fans above it; Taking Back Sunday broke them back down, seeking union in the despair.

After openers the Subways and Head Automatica shimmied through, Angels & Airwaves came to the stage as the new project of former Blink-182 co-frontman Tom DeLonge. With a prog-influenced, anthem-minded sound, he has created a band in which he is free to be as theatrical and grand as he desires.

If most modern emo is written from the perspective of an empty bedroom, the songs on A&A's debut "We Don't Need to Whisper" feel as if they come from a solitary astronaut, orbiting planet Earth to study the anti-gravitational effects on Gloomy Gus syndrome. Between songs including "Distraction" and "Good Day," DeLonge declared, "Even though this song is about struggle, this band is not" and "Thank you for being part of this."

The implication was that since this band means so much to him, it should in turn mean something to you. But it wasn't until A&A reached the set's closer, "The War," with the guitars chugging heavier and the drums booming louder than on record, that the group really achieved the intensity necessary for transcendence.

On Taking Back Sunday's albums, particularly the recently released "Louder Now," the quintet brings the type of sonic brutality that usually alienates anyone outside a particular niche audience. But the songs also often include brief choruses big enough to shout along to on the bus ride back from sleep-away camp. Live, Taking Back Sunday also benefits from frontman Adam Lazzara's confident strut, his soul-man shriek pushing off of guitarist Fred Mascherino's responding vocals. For nearly 90 minutes, the band pulled from all three of its albums, unleashing crowd favorites "You're So Last Summer," and "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut From the Team)" the latter prompting girls in pigtails and glitter eye shadow to sing gleefully, "And will you tell all your friends you've got a gun to my head?"

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