In September 2007, Yellowcard embarked on a co-headlining tour with The Blue October that hit up New York’s Nokia Theater (currently Best Buy Theater). Cherie and I planned to attend that show but plans fell through and we never did. I remember that show very vividly because Yellowcard went on hiatus the following year and I was never able to see them live. I was devastated because they were a band that was instrumental in shaping my musical taste, and it all started with Ocean Avenue. Luckily, Yellowcard returned in 2010, and have since released two of their best albums to date.
Like many bands, Yellowcard have ridden the wave of nostalgia through a 10-year anniversary tour, but the band also added another element: a re-worked acoustic version of their breakthrough album Ocean Avenue. It proved to be a wonderful treat for the fans and demonstrated the band’s maturity and versatility with improved vocals from Ryan Key and picture perfect precision from each member. The band decided to use the twist in their tour, where they performed the album acoustically before performing an elongated encore with several of their most popular songs from their four most recent studio albums. The tour hit Irving Plaza in New York City for two straight nights of nostalgic beauty, and I was lucky enough to attend the first of the two sold-out shows.
Yellowcard tabbed Geoff Rickley, frontman of seminal Victory Records post-hardcore band Thursday, to open the show, joking during their set that having the guy from Thursday open for them makes them sound cooler than they are. Since Thursday’s break-up in 2011, Geoff has been releasing free solo mixtapes for fans while touring every now and again. He played a mix of solo songs and Thursday songs, including “Standing on the Edge of Summer” off their legendary 2001 album Full Collapse. He waxed nostalgic about 2003, performing covers by The Flaming Lips (“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”) and Long Island legends Brand New (“The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot”) before going into “This Song Has Been Brought To You By A Falling Bomb” off Thursday’s breakthrough album War All The Time. Geoff’s set was often strange, awkward, and uncomfortable, but he definitely added more nostalgia to the night.
Yellowcard followed and you could tell the crowd came prepared. Ryan Key warned everyone that Boston’s audience raised the bar, and the fans met the challenge from the first note of “Way Away” belting louder than even the band could believe at times. The hour-long acoustic Ocean Avenue set was stunning, a true celebration of the band’s hard work and the legacy the milestone record has left behind. “Ocean Avenue” and “Only One” inspired crowd surfers, even in an acoustic setting, while “Life of a Salesman” brought out the mosh pit. When Ryan Key was struggling with his vocals during the first verse of “Ocean Avenue”, the fans picked him up, singing loud enough to give him time to recover for the chorus. Every Sean Mackin violin solo or Ryan Mendez guitar solo brought out wild cheers and applause from the crowd.
The real treat was getting to see some deep cuts played live for the first time, including some favorites like “Miles Apart”, “One Year, Six Months” and “The View From Heaven”, which they dedicated to a long-time Yellowcard fan Tiesha who attended every Yellowcard NYC show but sadly passed away last month. The band closed out the set with a beautiful rendition of “Back Home” before coming back out ten minutes later, electric guitars in hand. The band brought out some more surprises, opening with Paper Walls deep cuts “Paper Walls” and “The Takedown” to the crowd’s delight. The band tore through the second set, equipped with Yellowcard classics “Rough Landing Holly”, “Always Summer”, “Here I Am Alive”, and “With You Around” along with other great cuts like “Be The Young” and “Awakening”. The band closed out the set with “Lights and Sounds”, which included a drum solo from LP and the ending from Ocean Avenue played again electrically. Even with their set over, fans were not ready for the show to end, still chanting for an encore. It was an emotional end to what turned out to be a truly special night for the band and their fans. Sean Mackin and Ryan Key were speechless, proclaiming this as perhaps the best Yellowcard show of all time, and by the expression on their face you could tell they weren’t just saying it. They opened the show by raising the bar, and the crowd met the challenge.
There are many things we take for granted in our everyday lives. Certain things are always there for us and as a result we don’t even think about them. When Yellowcard went on hiatus in 2008, I was so sad that I had never gotten the chance to see such an integral band in my life live. Five years later, I can’t believe I’ve seen them six times (all post-hiatus) and even got the chance to meet them at Warped Tour 2012, where I learned that in addition to being fantastic musicians they are fantastic people as well. Yellowcard is a band I won’t take for granted any more, and that’s why every time they drop by New York I will make it a point to do my best to see them live. This show became another great memory that the band has provided me, and I am always grateful for it.