Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Live Review: Thrice Farewell Tour, Howard Theatre (5/23/12)
As O'Brother was on tour with Thrice less than a year ago, a fairly large portion of the audience was familiar with the band. I had previously seen O'Brother open in a small club and headline a bar room, so seeing them play in a much larger environment was something I had both excitement and concern for. I wanted to see them captivate an enormous room just as they had in the two other performances I'd witnessed, but I was worried that their performance was far more mindblowing in a more intimate setting. However, while this performance was perhaps my least favorite of the three times I've seen them, that was only because the bar had been raised so high. Opening with two of their more upbeat rockers in "Lo" and "Sputnik," O'Brother showed that they don't need to rely on intense instrumentals to win over a crowd, allowing a newfound rockstar-like stage presence to instead take over. O'Brother did play some of their more ambient and heavy material in the near eight minute long "Poison!" and "Machines Pt. 2," both of which silenced crowds and even won over some of the skeptical Animals As Leaders fans. O'Brother is surprisingly starting to get play on alternative radio, and while it was a different kind of feel from the band's early hellish intensity, this was the kind of performance that will continue expanding their fanbase while keeping their supporters very happy.
While I understand that the members of Thrice enjoy a wide variety of genres and their farewell tour support should be entirely their choices, Animals As Leaders simply did not fit in. A good amount of people in the audience were there solely to watch Tosin Abasi and the rest of the band shred, and quite a couple of those fans showed no respect for Thrice and their fans. It just felt wrong to the fans to have to suffer through a bunch of metalheads causing problems and discord throughout the venue. I'm really not trying to insult fans of the band, but from my experiences during the show, the fans made it really hard to more than very slightly enjoy Animals As Leaders' performance. Musically, the band is extremely talented, but the genre just isn't for me. However, based on their hometown fans' decision to start an enormous pit for the last few songs of the band's set, if you were a fan of Animals As Leaders, you went away happy.
Once Animals As Leaders finished their set, every eye in the packed venue was on Thrice. While the set started a little lukewarm with "Yellow Belly," the opener of latest album Major/Minor, the whole environment immediately changed with the next three songs, as Thrice powered through fan favorites early in the set. Vheissu opener "Image Of The Invisible" got the entire crowd chanting along while vocalist Dustin Kensrue passionately sang, while the title track of The Artist In The Amublance got the crowdsurfers in the air in swarms. But the energy really kicked up with The Illusion Of Safety opener "Kill Me Quickly," as Kensrue showed the ability to scream just as he did when the album came out ten years ago. The older leaning crowd definitely reacted strongest to songs from the band's first couple albums, cherishing one of their childhood favorite bands for what may be their last time ever.
If you didn't notice before, Thrice played tracks from four different albums in their first four songs of the night, and that trend continued throughout the performance. At least two songs from each of their eight albums were played, but no more than four from any specific one, keeping variety throughout the performance. Even though the band's sound has changed heavily throughout their career, moving from a melodic hardcore band in their earlier days to a band that embraced electronics and more mellow elements near the end, they showed no difficulty transitioning between between two drastically different tracks. The most drastic difference came from "Digital Sea" into "Stare At The Sun," as glitchy electronics and keyboards led into upbeat driving guitars and powerful drums. Very few bands could pull off that transition without a short intermission, but Thrice seamlessly changed from song to song without a sweat, an ability only obtained through 14 years of touring and making music.
Most importantly, this was a farewell show, and Thrice did everything to make it feel that way. While the large set and wide variety between albums catered to fans both new and old, the deep cuts were specifically focused at the fans that had supported the band from the beginning. Vheissu bonus track "The Flags Of Dawn" was a track that even the most intense Thrice fan may have not even seen live until this show, while the back to back combination of "Phoenix Ignition" and "T&C" from debut Identity Crisis closed the first encore, an obvious tribute to the band's earliest fans that had supported them through thick and thin. But the most emotional moment of the night came during the band's last song, the Major/Minor highlight "Anthology." The song is a perfect closure to Thrice's career, and Dustin's on stage thank-yous before the song were dripping with honesty and legitimate gratitude for all the support throughout the band's career. But Dustin, we need to thank you and the rest of Thrice, for being a rock in an ever-changing music scene, and always staying true to yourselves. You have inspired many musicians throughout your years, and your mark on music is permanent. You will forever be legends.
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