The Royale in Boston holds some sort of dance club night on certain weekends. I'm not completely familiar with their schedule per se, but it was clear that on this humid Saturday night, there would be one, with a doors time of 4:30 p.m. for this stop of Thrice's current headlining tour--a farewell tour of sorts, in fact, with their impending hiatus.
Where Thrice's last headliner here brought quite the massive tour package, this lineup seemed to focus more on the headliner itself. That was fine, since this was Thrice's supposed last hurrah, after all. Still, O'Brother is always one hell of an opener; apparently, vocalist/guitarist Tanner Merritt had a cold, but you could barely tell. The band sounded as massive and dynamic as it tends to, wedding heavy post-metal thrusts to lumbering stretches of moody guitar passages and castrato-like vocal performances. It's clear they share a pretty similar set of influences to mid-period Thrice without necessarily sounding that much like them, and they make a great opener in that sense. My company and I hadn't accounted for mid-day traffic and missed a few songs, but I was able to catch "Machines, Pt. 1," the epic "Poison!" and the usual sledgehammering closer of choice, "Lay Down".
Pity that Animals as Leaders were next. The progressive instrumental trio seemed like an odd choice to act as direct support for basically the last stand of Thrice's legacy. Their set was a bit of an endurance test--undeniably talented dudes doing something that is just terribly uninteresting with that ability. They also have dual projector screens that just essentially act as iTunes visualizers, with some other metallic sparkle patterns exploding on them here and there (a friend likened it to "robot vagina" at one point). There were some cool guitar tones (and the crowd managing a pit of some sorts at points), but it just felt like a chore to get through.
After 45 minutes or so of that, the crowd seemed sufficiently antsy for Thrice, whose set started off a little roughly, though. On the second song, Vheissu-opening anthem "Image of the Invisible," drummer Riley Breckenridge fucked up the timing a little bit and it clearly threw everyone in the band off. When Dustin Kensrue was supposed to shout the "We are the image of the in-vis-ible!" refrain at one point, he sort of just cocked his head away from the mic and sported a thoroughly confused look instead.
Fortunately, the band seemed to lock in soon thereafter. I was thrilled to hear that panicky intro to "Kill Me Quickly," a song I don't think I've seen Thrice play since 2004 or so (and I've probably seen them on just about every major U.S. tour in that time). It was funny to watch them follow "The Weight" with "Promises," which displayed some self-awareness in regards to how much they probably know those songs are spiritual and musical brothers.
All the while, the band locked into that groove it established itself as masters of on 2009's Beggars, playing tight, focused and with no trouble adapting to the faster tempos of the older stuff it pulled out from 2000's Identity Crisis and 2002's The Illusion of Safety. Kensrue's vocals were on point all throughout of course, from the menacing howls of "The Earth Will Shake" and "The Messenger" to the smoother melodies of "Broken Lungs" and, say, "Words in the Water." (Though anything remotely outside of the slowest, "Daedalus"-style jam--big choruses especially--elicited shirtless, sweaty bro-dude mosh that began to hinge on obnoxious toward the second half of the set. Worst.)
The set list was a little odd, especially in that Thrice played two songs off Air (an EP I personally enjoy, but perhaps the least well-received of the entire Alchemy Index, at least judging from audience reaction during the band's support tours of that time), and none off Water or Earth. A glance at the setlists of other tour stop shows the band is occasionally playing "Digital Sea," "Come All You Weary" and two of my absolute favorite songs, "Of Dust and Nations" and "Red Sky," on this tour. And sometimes, two encores. Bummer! I'd just chalk up the "abbreviated" 22-song set here to a curfew Royale likely imposed to start setting up for club night.
Still, this was a very satisfying way to watch Thrice say bye to Boston, at least for a little while. Given how strong an effort last year's Major/Minor was, let's hope this hiatus doesn't last too long.
Set list (7:31-8:55):
- Yellow Belly
- Image of the Invisible
- The Artist in the Ambulance
- Kill Me Quickly
- Under a Killing Moon
- In Exile
- The Weight
- Words in the Water
- The Earth Will Shake
- The Messenger
- Broken Lungs
- Stare at the Sun
- Flags of Dawn
- To Awake and Avenge the Dead
- Phoenix Ignition