I'll admit this straight away: I only got into Thrice when the Alchemy Index EPs came out. I had originally written them off as a Taking Back Sunday-style band that I had no interest in, and it wasn't until I listened to The Alchemy Index that I saw the Thrice as they deserved to be seen: a group that pushed themselves to do whatever they pleased in expanding their creative boundaries and growing as a band. Although I eventually came to enjoy their earlier records as well, the experimentation on Vheissu, the variation and mastery of multiple styles found on the Index, and the mature confidence of Beggars are Thrice's defining moments.
It is unfortunate, then, that they are sharing a stage on this tour with a band that sound like a crap version of their first few records. We Are the Ocean had more bad screaming in forced American accents and pseudo-hardcore breakdowns than you could possibly want, determined to ride the trend to its overdue death with one foot placed firmly on the monitors. I couldn't help but wish that the opening band would be someone who would help Thrice distance themselves from the ongoing emo stigmata in the same way that their developing sound now does, rather than going for a derivative band who only served to drag them back towards it.
But who cares, huh? The only thing that mattered, really, was that Thrice were about to hit the stage. As I worked my way to the middle of the crowd, though, I couldn't help but be concerned about the lack of keyboards on stage and remembered that Teppei Teranshini, who plays the majority of the band's keys, had dropped out of this tour. It was unfortunately obvious from before their set had even begun that I wouldn't be hearing a fair few of my favourite new songs.
Opening with "Of Dust and Nations" from Vheissu , "Silhouette" from The Artist in the Ambulance, a pair of songs from Beggars and a cover of "Helter Skelter" made for a great, varied opening to the set. A mosh pit immediately broke out as soon as the first note was played and I rushed to join it, although it understandably slowed to a halt for the songs from Beggars. Not from unfamiliarity, though -- a good chunk of the excitable crowd raised their fists in the air to yell every word back in Dustin Kensrue's face. It was just unfortunate that only the more standard of the songs from Vheiussu and Beggars could be played in Teppei's absence, and that the band had to continuously fall back on material from Artist to keep the crowd going as, despite singing along, many seemed to be losing interest after a stretch of slower songs.
"Deadbolt" was the only track from The Illusion of Safety on the set list, and the same Illusion track that appears on their 2008 live release. It's especially odd that they rely so heavily on the Artist, but at the same time seem to ignore Illusion when they are by far the band's two most similar albums. Especially disappointing, however, was the overwhelming lack of material from The Alchemy Index, with only one song from Air, "Song for Milly Michaelson," being played to what was probably the worst reception of the night. I thought that surely something from Fire would be played (I was hoping for "Firebreather"), as it contains the best of their more hardcore-leaning work and would surely get the crowd going, but no.
The obligatory encore saw Kensrue coming on stage alone with just an electric guitar. He gave the crowd the choice of either a song from Earth, or "Stare at the Sun," and the response was almost unanimously for the Artist in the Ambulance single, which was played beautifully before the band rejoined to close the show with the title track from Beggars.
This was definitely an odd show. Thrice were impressively tight on stage despite the loss of their regular guitarist, although almost completely motionless. Fortunately, the crowd more than made up for their lack of energy, at least until a slower song came on. An admittedly quite varied mix of songs gave the kids up front what they wanted, but I can't have been the only one who came as a fan of their more creative material and left a little disappointed. The support were also completely unable to pick up any of the slack, putting on one of the most uninspired performances I've seen in quite some time. Very good, but not great.