This was one of those shows that, the closer it got, I got less and less excited for.
I got tickets a while ago, for I am a sucker for Thrice's live act. I've seen them probably five times now, the first on the Plea for Peace tour when all anyone really knew about them (on the East Coast, at least) was that the lead singer looked like a wolf. They've always been entertaining and The Illusion of Safety is one of my top ten favorites. But then I heard the new CD, and my jury is still out on that one.
But I guess I'll start from the beginning. Opening act Veda is a female-fronted sort of, well, girl-rockish group. I had heard their CD and was unimpressed at best, except for noticing the girl could really hold a note. I almost considered skipping the band, but now I'm glad I did not.
While their live show lacks stage presence by all members except front-woman Kristen May, that girl can sing. And by sing, I mean I was standing in the back and two guys who looked relatively bro-coreish just stood in awe of her voice, occasionally looking at each other with that "Never tell anyone I liked this" look. May's vocals captivated the room, with a certain rolling, rocky quality that was just awesome. She alternated between piano and guitar during the fairly short set, but unfortunately she couldn't save the statues that were the rest of the band, slowly strumming along to really easy power-pop, rarely getting excited about their own music.
The Bled were up next. Pass the Flask was one of my favorites of 2003, just because it seemed to do everything that melodic metalcore (or whatever they're calling it these days) should do. I am not a fan of the new album at all, and maybe they were just having an off night, but the live show was pretty bad as well. For most of the time the singer/screamer just sort of stood there, looking bored and almost waiting to get off stage, not really caring about audience interaction. When your sole job is to sing the words of a song, it's usually a good thing to try and get the audience involved in your show, but this guy just didn't seem to care. The other members of the band were very much into the music, but after a while it was all blending into itself and I quickly lost interest.
Underoath was the act that I was totally unfamiliar with prior to the show. While I didn't mind the music and the set was energetic as hell, please don't use strobe lights if you're in a band. If you are going to burst super-bright light, please don't shine it into the eyes of the audience. I don't like to spend the night alternately covering my eyes and turning around, waiting for someone around me to have an epileptic fit. I've seen shows that have sychronized lighting before, but never to this extent and never so obscenely bright.
There's also one guy in Underoath who, well, is kind of like the dancer in the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It looks like his job is to just sort of 'rock out' on the side of the stage, while making sure the background electronic beats or whatever sound clips are getting played at the right time. It's sort of a deterrant, to see this high energetic band all with instruments and climbing on amps and what not, and then this portly dude just thrashing around as if he's a misplaced fan given the chance to dance on stage.
Finally, I wasn't sure if Underoath was the Christian band that I had heard a lot about. I didn't really care, until the last thing the singer started talking about was how the band wouldn't be around if it weren't for the love and support of Jesus Christ. Some of the crowd went nuts, some just sort of stared at each other, but please, leave your preaching at the door. I came for the music, and faith is a personal thing. I've never once seen a band thank their families or friends, I don't see why Jesus needs to be brought into it. I'm glad that I know Jesus loves hardcore though; it gets me a better chance of getting into heaven when I die.
Thrice, while still great, was not as good as the prior times I've seen them. The show was energetic, the new material was great and the choice cuts of old albums were good ones. However, a few criticisms: One is that Dustin is singing more, and not just on the new songs. The end of "Kill Me Quickly" lacked the raspiness in his voice, exchanged for melody. Same thing with "Betrayal is a Symptom," as parts that are normally screamed were substituted with standard melody. One of my main gripes with the new material is there isn't enough of that great scream Dustin has, the one that made my friends originally compare him to a wolf; don't go changing up the vocals of old songs too much.
The new material was well-received, and Dustin made an off-handed comment about how a few of us already had the album and sort of scoffed. One of the things that made me nervous was hearing all the piano in the new album and wondering if the band would just have it played via the speaker (á la Alkaline Trio), but sure enough Teppei is a rather good pianist, playing during the majority of "Atlantic" and the few other new ones that required it. There's a nice change up to "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts" and the always-classic live ending to "Deadbolt" ended the standard set. The encore of "Stare at the Sun" was acoustic, which was alright, but I had wished Teppei was at the piano for it. "To Awake and Avenge the Dead" rounded out the night, but no selections from Identity Crisis was disappointing.
So this is a hit-or-miss show. If you're willing to spend the money just to see Thrice, chances are you won't be disappointed. Veda is worth it just to hear this girl live, but the Bled and Underoath both depend on your personal opinion of good live bands, stroble lights, and Jesus. Lastly, I'll apologize to all the audience for accidentally getting my colors mixed up and wearing a black belt and a white t-shirt. I don't know what I was thinking this morning when I put them on. In all honesty, though, is there really a necessity for wearing two white belts? I saw at least three different people wearing two belts each. I guess this is why I didn't go to school to be a fashion designer, because I think you're all insane.
Thrice's setlist, grouped by album:
The Illusion of Safety:
- Kill Me Quickly
- Betrayal is a Symptom
- To Awake and Avenge the Dead
- Cold Cash and Colder Hearts
- Under a Killing Moon
- Stare at the Sun
- The Melting Point of Wax
- The Aritst and the Ambulance
- The Abolition of Man
- Image of the Invisible
- The Earth Will Shake
- For Miles
- Hold Fast Hope
- Music Box
- Red Sky