Concert Review: Thrice at the Newport Music Hall (Columbus)

This review originally appeared in Ryan’s personal blog TUNED UP!, which also follows business trends in music in addition to the usual reviews and news.

Thrice (Irvine, CA), La Dispute (Grand Rapids, MI), and O’Brother (Atlanta, GA)
October 23rd, 2011
Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio

On a whim,  I attended the Columbus, OH date of the much hyped Thrice tour in support of their record, Major/Minor.  That turned out to be a great decision.

I missed the first opener Moving Mountains due to the lateness of my decision to attend, so I arrived just in time to hear the experimental rock of O’Brother.  They delivered an intense performance, embodying the wall of sound effect they are known for quite well.   I found myself being drawn into the sound despite being positioned toward the back of the venue, and the bass thumped my chest at an intensity I have not experienced in a long time.  The brooding “Ascension” with its extended outro was a highlight.  I already have their EP The Death of Day, and I look forward to checking out their full-length when it drops November 15th.

The direct support, La Dispute, left a lot to be desired.  Instrumentally speaking, I enjoyed the group.  The vocals were awkward, however.  Maybe it just is not my taste, but to quote one online concert-goer on AbsolutePunk, the lead vocalist of La Dispute sounds like “Aaron Weiss of MeWithoutYou running away from a lion.”  In other words, the frantic shouting of La Dispute hardly changes in inflection, tone, or emotion.  Hence, after a couple of songs I was bored and decided to take a stroll through the venue, checking out some merch and buying a drink.  I give the band points for audience involvement though, as the vocalist jumped into the crowd for the last song and interacted with the small but prominent fanbase shouting every word back in the pit.

After a short break, the lights dimmed once more for Thrice.  They opened with the first track off Major/Minor, “Yellow Belly.”   As the set progressed, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Jimmy Eat World concert I went to around a year ago.  The band is starting to age a bit so perhaps they are not as energetic as they once were but they still had a stage presence to be reckoned with.  Dustin Kensrue’s vocals were spot on the entire show, a rarity for bands that tour a ton, and ones that have done so for ten plus years at that!  Other set highlights for me included their performances of “All the World is Mad,” “In Exile”, “Silhouette,” and “Anthology.”  The coolest part of the night by far was the intense post-hardcore track “The Earth Will Shake.”  For this song, the contrast of rough and clean vocals mixed with a harsh post-rock-esque instrumentation worked really well, and at one point there were SIX extra people onstage, simultaneously adding banging on extra onstage drums.  The effect was quite theatrical and worked well despite the potential for it to be over the top.  Another thing I have to give Thrice points for is their support of Invisible Children, an organization working to raise awareness of and combat the longest running conflict in Africa.  Unfortunately, when Kensrue paused to speak about the cause for a minute one heckler bad-mouthed what he was trying to do, to which Kensrue calmly replied “Yeah, you can leave” amidst many more cheers.  It’s unfortunate that this happened, but ultimately it did not damper the show.  Thrice came back out for a two song encore, with Kensrue interacting with the crowd for the latter.  Afterward, he played an unplugged acoustic set outside the Ohio Union across the street from the Newport, which unfortunately I was unable to attend.

All in all, it was a satisfying evening.  I told my friend when I left that despite only knowing around half the songs in the setlist, Thrice put on one of the most engaging performances I have ever seen.  They did so without many onstage bells and whistles too.  Some bands just don’t need a lot of extra lights and onstage action, and Thrice is one of them.  Purchase Major/Minor and look out for their single “Promises” on RadioU.

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