With the release of 2001's Full Collapse, Thursday changed the course of alternative music. While the scene they helped create may not be remembered in the most favorable light, the band has consistently challenged musical conventions over the past 11 years, and done so with as much sincerity and integrity as any band could. That is why it is a shame they have never equaled the success of Full Collapse. With each album, the band's record sales and popularity fell, despite the fact they continued to earn glowing reviews for both their new releases and live shows. In April 2011 they debuted their fifth proper full length, No Devolución. It was a radical, "art rock" departure from their earlier work that quickly became one of the year's best reviewed albums, even if not one of its best selling.
Short openings slots on tours with My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday in front of largely uninterested crowds followed before the band then announced a proper headlining tour. In late November, they proclaimed the tour would be their last, save for a brief run of Australian dates in 2012. The band cited personal issues for calling it quits, but it can be assumed the difficulties of making a living as a band for so many years had taken its toll. Their final headlining tour would come to a close with a string of East Coast dates during the holidays, with New Haven, Conn. being the third to last stop. The band had a history of playing at Toad's, a venerable rock club close to the campus of Yale University. Their final show there would prove to be a memorable one, as both the band and their fans poured all of their energy into one last performance.
The night began with opening sets from Aficionado and Connecticut's own Make Do and Mend. I was able to catch a number of songs from the latter, and wasn't terribly impressed until their closing number, "Night's the Only Time of Day," which showed quite a bit of potential. New Brunswick, N.J. trio Screaming Females followed, showcasing their bass-heavy brand of garage rock. In addition to playing a very impressive lead guitar, frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a vocal powerhouse, and her talents helped the act stand out from many of their peers. While the band doesn't have fantastic stage presence, they sounded great, and their set seemed well received by the large crowd that had already gathered.
The main support act was Philadelphia, Pa.'s MewithoutYou. The band has earned somewhat of a cult following after touring extensively with the likes of Thursday and Brand New in the past, but has never garnered the same type of breakout success as those two bands have. They played a nearly 45-minute set that had many in the crowd moving and singing along. They tended to blend at least a few of their songs together, and took only short breaks between others. While I'm not terribly familiar with their work, I would say they sounded much better than they had the one other time I had seen them.
After a nearly 40-minute wait (which is really pushing it at a show with five bands), Thursday took the stage to the tune of No Devolución's "Open Quotes." The crowd immediately surged towards the stage as fists flew through the air. While not one of the band's better known songs, the intensity the band and the crowd displayed during this number would set the tone for the rest of the night. Next up was "For the Workforce, Downing," which is one of the band's best known songs. The intensity was turned up a few more notches as frontman Geoff Rickly climbed on top of a monitor at the front of the stage, grabbed onto a support beam and leaned as far as he could into the crowd. With no barrier separating the stage from the fans, literally dozens of people made their way on stage during this song alone, forcing the band to take a short break afterward to rearrange all the gear and peddles that had been trampled during the melee.
While Thursday had played 16 songs sets at previous shows, Rickly announced they would be playing longer on this night due to special requests from their road crew, the first of which was "I Am the Killer" from Full Collapse. The band would do a very good job showcasing songs that spanned their career while still featuring six songs from their most recent effort. This was important because this tour would prove to be the only chance they had to play anything from No Devolución as a headlining act.
Throughout the set, the crowd somehow maintained their level of intensity. At times it seemed the only ones getting more of a workout than the fans were the bouncers responsible for corralling crowd surfers as they reached the stage. Even during the set's more mellow moments, the crowd continued to rage. At one point, Rickly said something along the lines of "We need to play a fast song now because you guys are killing each other during these slow songs." The band would then launch into "At This Velocity" from 2006's A City By the Light Divided, which was one of the set's best performances. For someone who has a reputation for between-song storytelling, Rickly's banter was at least somewhat constrained, although he did thank the fans on numerous occasions for sticking with them throughout the years and for their enthusiasm on this night. This enthusiasm would peak during "Cross Out the Eyes," the song that had helped put the band on the map 10 years earlier.
The only full-length that Rickly and Co. seemed to ignore was 2009's Common Existence, that is until the schizophrenic "Resuscitation of a Dead Man" was featured as the last song of the set. After a very short break, the New Brunswick crew made their way back on stage and promised a three-song encore, which began with the slowed down "Stay True." The song was dedicated to the night's first two opening acts, who Rickly credited with reminding him of "why he got into punk rock in the first place." After a nod to the holiday season, the band played the opening notes to "Jet Black New Year" and the crowd swung back into action. The marathon (once again, considering there were five bands) 20-song set would then conclude with fast-paced closer "Turnpike Divides."
It was now 12:15 a.m., and the sun had officially set on Thursday's final New Haven show. Their powerful performance reminded everyone in attendance why they had grown to love the band in the first place, and why it would be tough to see them go. While they may have ended up a casualty of a flawed record industry and shifting tastes, those in attendance are likely to remember Thursday as the band that poured their souls into every album and every live show, especially their last one.