Sound — 9
It's always interesting to hear how different bands will utilize the ever-popular unplugged format. For some it might actually do them a disservice, but this isn't the case for Taking Back Sunday. Granted, the Amityville natives have released plenty of catchy, power-chord rich material that has clicked with Warped Tour crowds, but the latest album Live From Orensanz showcases the true talent and vibrant instrumentation behind it all. Recorded over two acoustic shows in 1999 at the Angel Orensanz (a New York synagogue built with a Gothic flair), the live acoustic record doesn't stray too far from the original songs all in all, but even stripping back the amplification allows the musicianship to come through a bit more effectively. Rather than going for a slower, dramatic opening a la Alice In Chains Unplugged, Taking Back Sunday opts for the energetic MakeDamnSure. Immediately the vocal power and clarity shines through more so than what you hear on the original recordings. It's one of many selections that are pretty faithful to the original arrangement, although it has a slightly mellower feel. New Again and Set The Phasers To Stun also somehow manage to deliver massive amounts of energy without the use of electrics. The one can't-miss moment of the latter track is when the usual electric lead (which usually has a somewhat sonic vibe) is replaced with a gorgeous, well-executed acoustic solo. The few numbers that are a bit more experimental and gutsy usually are the standouts in unplugged formats, and Taking Back Sunday has a few that are worthy of mention. A Decade Under The Influence/Lightning Song pulls the tempo back to almost a lull, with a gorgeous string section backing it all. The layered harmonies of Adam Lazzara and then-guitarist/vocalist Matthew Fazzi are much more powerful in the live version, and they actually never sounded better. Everything Must Go is another bare-bones arrangement (even more so than the original), which although one of the quietest numbers, will be one that lingers in your mind.
Lyrics — 7
Live From Orensanz features no new material, and you'll hear familiar titles like MakeDamnSure, My Blue Heaven, and Cute Without The E (Cut From The Team). The titles are always unique and a bit quirky, but the themes within the core songs generally do revolve around your standard relationship/love fare. The band is geared toward a younger audience in any case as you can determine from just listening to the masses of screaming girls in the background and the lyrical content is pretty much designed for that crowd.
Overall Impression — 8
When the band plugs in, Taking Back Sunday walks an alternative rock/emo/pop line that has certainly worked well for them over a decade. The acoustic format allows the band to focus on the core songwriting without relying on that rock persona that has earned them plenty of fans, however. There is plenty to be acknowledged on the album, whether it's the capable acoustic lead work of Matthew Fazzi and Eddie Reyes or the moving vocal duo of Lazzara/Fazzi. The band could have ventured into more adventurous arrangements, but for the most part Live From Orensanz still provides a fresh and enjoyable listen.