In March of 2002, my life was forever changed when I got to see Thrice perform live for the first time. Twenty years and 30+ Thrice concerts later, I found myself at the House of Blues Anaheim to see, what would turn out to be, my favorite Thrice concert(s) to date.
On December 15th-18th, Thrice performed four consecutive sold-out shows to an audience of seasoned diehards. Celebrating 20 years since the release of “The Illusion of Safety,” the band treated their hometown with what was likely the last opportunity to see the album performed in its entirety.
Having rarely performed many of the songs from “The Illusion of Safety” in the past 10 years, Thrice instantly grabbed the attention of early Thrice fans when they announced that they would be playing the album from front to back on these four dates.
Each night saw a different opening act (Modern Color, Militarie Gun, Holy Fawn, and Worship Cult) and I would suggest all four of these bands to any Thrice fan.
Inside the venue, the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted. The four members of Thrice walked onto the pitch-black stage before singer Dustin Kensrue casually greeted the crowd, “This is ‘The Illusion of Safety.’”
As Kensrue began picking the slow, menacing, two-note buildup that is the intro of “Kill Me Quickly,” I had chills run down my spine. Seconds later it was like the show went from zero to 60. A hundred hands shot into the air and motioned back toward the band with every syllable of every lyric. “Can we! Can we kill each other quickly?” I had not felt this level of excitement at a concert in years; getting to hear this live instantly gave me goosebumps and I couldn’t help but scream along.
With a just moment between songs, the band jumped right into “A Subtle Dagger.” The (less than) two-minute banger was met with such exuberance and enthusiasm, I momentarily considered leaving the pit area. Hundreds of voices stifled the house mix as the audience continued screaming back every word.
“See You in the Shallows” was third and proved to be one of the more popular songs in the set. “I hear the waves crash far below” thunderously echoed throughout the venue. With multiple sing-along moments throughout the song, this was one of the more memorable moments of the night for me.
Any longtime Thrice fan can tell you just how much Kensrue’s voice has improved over the past 20 years. It was incredibly cool to hear Kensrue adjust the vocal stylings from his early 20s to fit his, now, extremely well-trained singing abilities. With beefier screams, tasteful vibrato, and a dynamic that we had not started to hear until the release of “Vheissu,” I was left in awe.
Following “Betrayal is a Symptom” was the moment many had been waiting for. The fast clicks leading into “Deadbolt” instantly put the crowd on their toes and within seconds a circle pit was underway. One of the few songs from the album that the band has performed live within the past 10-20 years remains the crowd favorite. Dozens of phones shot up to record what would inevitably be some of the most energetic minutes of the set. The deafening roar of 1,700 voices screaming “I just close my eyes and I’m already there,” was immensely exhilarating and proved to spark a chain reaction of excitement. Crowd surfers started spilling over the barricade while others did their best to push and shove their way as close to Kensrue as possible. As expected, “Deadbolt” ended with the extended live-outro, and judging by the number of people who continued to sing along, I suspected there were very few people in attendance that had never seen the band live before.
After “Deadbolt” and “In Years to Come” was “The Red Death.” It became incredibly apparent just how much Kensrue’s singing style and dynamic have matured as he worked through those quiet, opening lyrics. The turbulent stage lights created an amazingly chaotic atmosphere throughout the song and the “you look so surprised to see me here” screaming moment toward the end was one of the coolest moments of the set.
Following “A Living Dance Upon Dead Minds” – a song the band has only ever performed live a total of five times – was “Where Idols Once Stood.” I have to say, of all the songs that Kensrue has taken small liberties with, this would be my favorite. When they get to the moment where he screams “I’ll draw the shades and stay inside,” he draws out the scream “inside” and it gives that moment so much more life than the version you’ll find on the album. I loved it.
The song “Trust” is one of the slow songs on the album, however it happens to feature one of the biggest sing-alongs: “Will I trust you? Will I trust you to carry me through?” was sung by nearly every person in the room.
As the band hopped into the intro to “To Awake and Avenge the Dead,” the crowd perked up and cheered. A nearby circle pit began to pick up speed and the crowd’s energy was about to reach a boiling point. The breakdown at the end of “To Awake and Avenge the Dead” is one of the best album moments that gets completely blown out of the water when you see it live.
Guitarist Teppei Teranishi’s headbanging and onstage movements throughout the set were very reminiscent of how he used to move around 20 years ago while performing these songs live. It was so cool to see my memory of “old, live Thrice” coming to life before my eyes.
As the album, and the first chunk of the set, winds down, you get to the song “So Strange I Remember You.” The song starts with Teranishi’s clean guitar which leads you through a soothing whirlwind of hammer-ons, slides, and pull-offs just before you’re thrust into a 200 beats per-minute punk song. The crowd enthusiastically sang along to “If we could only see us now.”
The end of “The Illusion of Safety” was upon us and I, for one, was ready to hear a song that I had never personally heard the band perform live before: “The Beltsville Crucible.” Everyone around me looked so happy to hear it performed live and sang along with every word.
Thankfully, the night wasn’t over and Thrice played the b-side from “The Illusion of Safety,” “That Hideous Strength.” I had only seen Thrice perform it a handful of times and it was so awesome that the band included it in the set.
Depending on which night you attended, the remainder of the band’s set, excluding the encore, was comprised of a variety of songs that the band has fairly consistently played live in recent years including “The Artist in the Ambulance,” “Under a Killing Moon,” “Of Dust and Nations,” “Hurricane,” “Silhouette,” “Firebreather,” “The Earth Will Shake,” “Hold Fast Hope” and “Yellow Belly.”
With the encore upon us, the band walked a couple of dozen translucent beach balls to the stage before tossing them out to the crowd. The “Doom Ball” tradition was something that was started early on at Thrice concerts and it was a fun nod to older fans.
With the “Doom Balls” now bouncing around the crowd, Kensrue teased the audience with a clue of what was just to come. “We’re going to go further back in the Time Machine.” “Phoenix Ignition” and “T&C” are two songs that I hadn’t seen the band perform live in over 10 years and they made for some perfect final moments of the sets. I can only hope that the band continues to work these old favorites into future setlists because these, without a doubt, were my favorite Thrice concerts to date.