With the amount of bands of late who are celebrating milestone anniversaries for their iconic albums, it's an incredible time to be a lover of music, especially in a live setting. And for Aussie fans, the chance to catch post hardcore cult favourites Thrice at last back on our shores in 2023 is a gift in itself; but the added bonus of the group celebrating the 20th anniversary of their iconic 2003 third full length The Artist In The Ambulance posed whole new levels of magic, witnessed with gusto at the band's appearance in Brisbane on Sunday evening at the heritage-listed Princess Theatre.
Ahead of the tour kicking off, Thrice themselves shared with The Soundcheck some of their favourite Aussie bands; and fittingly in Brisbane, it's Queensland's very own Wifecult who featured in Thrice's Aussie hitlist opening proceedings, having just leapt off some key supports for La Dispute's Wildfire 10 Year Anniversary tour before taking on the key support role with Thrice for their Melbourne, Sydney and Brissie legs.
A sharp young trio oozing with energy, from the enigmatic charisma of bassist and backing vocalist Joseph Keating to the effortless smoulder of frontman Jarith Hughes and the stalwart stylings of drummer (and La Dispute member) Brad Vander Lugt, Wifecult rapidly enrapture the ever-growing crowd in the Princess Theatre with their creamy melodics and oozing harmonies that hit you square in the feels. A band who are the epitome of why you should remember your ABC's at every gig (Always Be Checking...out the support act), Wifecult are a poignant gem on the rise with balanced swagger alongside meaningful lyricism and exceptionally sunny tones, with the only downside being how quickly their set came to a close. And from shouting out to the dads in the crowd who have ventured out on Father's Day to declaring their hometown leanings, Wifecult threw down the gauntlet to the home crowd, goading the room to outdo Melbourne and Sydney with a good ol' fashioned fist-pumping singalong ahead of their extremely sturdy set winding to a close.
With only one support act on the cards, it's a short wait before the main course erupts onstage, with Thrice wasting no time diving headfirst into The Artist In The Ambulance's opener Cold Cash and Colder Hearts. It's a mesmerising moment for anyone who grew up idolising the landmark album we're all here to commemorate, while undoubtedly also delighting the newer fans who have since caught the Thrice obsession in more recent times. An album that dared to dream beyond expectations and balanced turgid heaviness with more delicate moments, The Artist In The Ambulance genuinely has something for everyone, and its opening track feels readily like multiple tracks in one as frontman Dustin Kensrue pours his whiskey-soaked golden vocals into the crowd while the floor beneath echoes with stomps and the room fills with hands hurled into the air.
Covering everything from emo to pop, as well as rowdier deviations into metal and high octane frivolity, the foray through The Artist In The Ambulance in a live setting hammers home Thrice's insatiable ability to defy pigeonholing alongside their formidable individual yet cohesive talents. Kensrue cuts an otherworldly figure like a modern-day Johnny Cash, whether bathed in hypnotic downlights or ferociously bellowing like a polished man possessed. Equally stealing the show is the absolute shred-fest put on by Teppei Teranishi, alongside the thunderous Breckenridge brothers in the rhythm section, with Eddie and Riley respectively sending it on bass and behind the kit.
Even though the fans know which song will follow as the full album playthrough continues, it doesn't stop excited gasps at the opening bars of Silhouette, Paper Tigers and The Melting Point of Wax, and the resounding singalong that accompanies the album's title track is enough to melt even the most reptilian of hearts.
In the blink of an eye, The Artist In The Ambulance portion of the set comes to a close, but we're far from over as Kensrue declares the band have a few more tracks if anyone is keen; and the rapturous response leaves little doubt that no one is ready to head home just yet as the band jump into an Artist In The Ambulance B-side Motion Isn't Meaning, and Summer Set Fire To The Rain taken of the band's 2021 pearler Horizons/East.
Mixing older and newer cuts into the latter half of their set, the painstaking craftmanship that has gone into this tour becomes increasingly apparent, from the signposting purple, pink and yellow lighting dominantly reserved for Horizons/East tracks, mimicking the album's cover, to the deeper cuts firmly baked in to gift long-term fans a holistic Thrice experience after the band's unintentionally long absence down under.
With tracks Where Idols Once Stood, Deadbolt and The Weight, Thrice relentlessly up the ante with each passing song, a fact further amplified by the decline of mobile phones up in the air as fans instead stand transfixed in these beautiful suspended moments in time. And as Yellow Belly, Firebreather and The Long Defeat offer back-to-back bangers, it's via the encore after briefly vacating the stage that Thrice deliver a beautiful double knockout blow courtesy of Black Honey and, finally, the heavy, bluesy heartbreaker The Earth Will Shake. A bulky yet sublime finisher, Kensrue pauses as the crowd joins in with the a capella chorus, before the dense tune swells to its conclusion, ricocheting through the Princess Theatre and leaving the room in a spellbound stupour as Thrice leave the stage for the final time.
In a live setting, Thrice remain one of those rare bands who can attain or even outdo their own recordings while also showcasing their authentic, innovative and timeless tendencies that have cemented their legacy for many moons. Witnessing The Artist In The Ambulance in a packed room 20 years after its release may reek of nostalgia, but instead it offered an unforgettable experience, truly as earth-shaking as its closing track's namesake for both the band and the sold out crowd. As a guy in the beer garden declared immediately after the set: "how am I meant to go back to normal life after witnessing something like that?".
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BY TIANA SPETER