Published Dec 06, 2015The Get Up Kids brought their special brand of mid-'90s emo to the Phoenix in Toronto, one of two Canadian dates on their 20th anniversary tour.
Top of their game in their heyday, while TGUK are viewed as the prototypical second-wave emo band, their relationship with the genre is complicated. They've said they never felt they were part of a scene, nor did they strive to adhere to the genre they came to define — only setting out to create energetic music inspired by bands like Weezer, Archers of Loaf, Fugazi and Superchunk.
Not surprisingly, TGUK aren't fans of the turn emo has taken — the term now tied to superficialities like Hot Topic fashion and commercial successes like Fall Out Boy. They do, however, appreciate the aesthetic of revivalists such as Into It. Over It., who opened on their anniversary tour along with Rozwell Kid (who were most memorable for their series of showy stances and solos).
Into it. Over It. are on the same page as TGUK with their sense of determination and climactic, sentimental sound. The overall intricacy of their songs and the drummer's animated expressions, especially on the mathiest numbers, were the highlights. TGUK own bassist Rob Pope was absent, so members of Into. It. Over It. subbed in adeptly — Evan Weiss on the first few songs and his band's bassist for the remainder of the set.
Seeing TGUK live emphasizes their skilled musicianship and how their sound hits on multiple levels. Post-hardcore meets indie pop and college rock — punchy, powerful and earnest — their strongest songs stand the test of time. They were superbly written at a young age, emoting beyond lyrics and vocals through guitar and keys and with a strong grasp of pacing, melody and rhythm.
They wisely chose to play almost exclusively from their earliest releases. Ripping with ease through the rougher punk gems off their 1997 Woodson EP and Four Minute Mile and the more polished songs from Something to Write Home About (1999) and Eudora (2001). Their decision to play two covers instead of originals off the latter was one of the only disappointments of the evening. The other being that they neglected the latest and greatest of their later releases, There Are Rules (2011) entirely, in favour of playing one track from the mellower On a Wire (2002) and one from Guilt Show (2004).
Sweeping you off your feet with dynamic highs and lows, a sense of rushing and racing emotions, TGUK capture a sense of loving, longing, struggling and hoping. It showed on all their fans' faces as they smiled, danced and sang along to every song. The camaraderie amongst fans recreated the feel of shows back in the day, reflecting a meaningful connection between the past and the present. There was little sense of aging despite the fact the band members and majority of fans (even though it was an all-ages show) had. Like some clever trick, TGUK hypnotized everyone, transforming them into enthusiastic 18-year-olds — and all just by playing their awesome songs wholeheartedly for them.