with Animals as Leaders, O’Brother
House of Blues, Orlando, FL • May 16, 2012
It’s a slippery slope from “hiatus” to “break-up,” but if that does end up being the fate of Thrice, at least they can say that they went out with a BANG!
After 14 years, the post hardcore-turned-experimental rock group has decided to take an indeterminate break “from being a full time band.” Rather than just surprise fans with the disappointing news and then ride off into the proverbial sunset, they’re making the rounds one last time on The Farewell Tour. AND they’ve compiled setlists based upon polls on their website, letting the fans choose what songs of their eight+ albums make the cut. The result is a sort of greatest hits, 24-song set that spans the many faces/phases of Thrice’s long and underrated career.
It’s too bad they didn’t let the fans choose the opening bands. O’Brother was decent, if not a little boring to watch, but their murky, grunge growls and nineties revamping never quite pulled together. The raw elements were there, but the Atlanta band just ran through the Pearl Jam and Tool-isms and soaked it in a marinade of Thrice’s melodic hardcore. The result was unoriginal.
For all the flaws I found in O’Brother, I would’ve gladly stood through another 30 minutes of them in exchange for having to wait through Animals as Leaders’ Dream Theater-y pretentiousness. As musicians, the instrumental trio are absurdly skilled. Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes both confuse the finish off of their eight-string guitars (because six strings aren’t enough for these guys!), and brand new drummer Matt Garstka is a freakin’ machine on the drums — actually, him, I could have watched and listened to without complaint. The trouble was that the pair of guitarists played like snobs, and appeared to be bored onstage. So you’re a wizard on the guitar, whoop-dee-do. Be a session player, don’t be in a band meant to entertain onstage if you really don’t want to put in the effort to even look like you want to be there.
Bring on the main attraction, already!
It’s a bittersweet evening, watching what will most likely be the last time seeing a band we’ve come to love over the course of a decade. It must be equally as difficult for Thrice, who have to essentially say “goodbye” every night for two months to a roomful of strangers who are emotionally attached to their auditory blood, sweat, and tears.
Frontman Dustin Kensrue has never been a real chatty fella onstage, and this time is no different. Beyond the occasional comment (as when he, ever so sarcastically, thanked an anonymous patron for tossing an empty beer can onstage), Kensrue, guitarist Teppei Teranishi, bassist Eddie Breckenridge and drummer Riley Breckenridge just ate their way through one monstrous fire starter to another.
For as many years as I’ve been following this band, even as their albums have taken on more subtle, experimental — even electronic — tones and become less screamo in their aggression, the old fans have always demanded the earlier, mosh-inducing works. So a setlist compiled with fans’ interests in mind is, of course, packed full of those nosebleed ragers.
“Image of the Invisible,” “Deadbolt,” “To Awake and Avenge the Dead,” “The Messenger” and “Silhouette,” were just a handful of the songs that got the sweat dripping off of those that passed over hands, heads, and happy faces. Their melodic hardcore highlights, “The Artist in the Ambulance,” “In Exile,” and “The Weight,” bridge the gap for those not fully on board for Kensrue’s emotionally throat-tearing screams. And then there rest the more recent, thoughtful slow burners that create atmosphere above and beyond that of spilled blood and testosterone.
“Daedalus” (“We were really happy that you guys chose this one,” Kensrue said), “Red Sky,” and “Digital Sea” gave the night — and the band — credibility not usually bestowed upon post-hardcore acts. They closed out with with the textured “Beggars,” a song that Radiohead could have written, before taking a breather to then return for a first, and then SECOND, encore! A new song, “Anthology,” off of their most recent album (last?) Major/Minor is the last song the band Thrice played for a not-nearly-ready-for-it-to-end Orlando audience.
If this is, indeed, the end, then thanks be sent to the four masterminds that call(ed) themselves Thrice. It’s been a privilege seeing you play.