Live albums are a funny one. Obviously they are no substitute for the live experience; and roughly 10 out of 10 music fans would rather be there than listen on CD if they had to pick one or the other. Sometimes though, they recreate a special, one-off experience like an acoustic performance or playing with an orchestra added. Other times, such as with Thrice’s ‘Anthology’, it’s a band bowing out after 14 active years sharing the experience of their farewell tour. Thrice, who decided to take a hiatus to concentrate on their familial responsibilities, here try to collate their greatest material of their immense back catalog and present it as a “greatest hits” package, whilst simultaneously try to express their prowess in the live arena.
This isn’t the first time Thrice have released a live record. 2008′s ‘Live At The House Of Blues‘ chronicled their canon to date, and all that’s come out since then is ‘Beggars‘ and swansong ‘Major/Minor‘. So why force the fans to delve into their pockets one more time? Put quite simply, because this is the fan’s album. Before their final outing, the band left it up to the fans to choose each night’s setlist, and these are 24 of the 25 most popular choices. The material is split fairly evenly through each “era” of the band – the Californians’ latter-day material has split their fanbase down the middle, quite unlike many other bands. Thrice fans seem to have created two encampments split at the seams between the releases of ‘The Artist In The Ambulance‘ and ‘Vheissu‘ (staunchly sticking to their former identity as a pacy post-hardcore band and dismissing the “pretentious” later records), and the other half realising that on ‘Vheissu‘ and after, the band realised their potential as a progressive, forward thinking band.
There’s plenty here for someone of either partition though; all 7 of their albums are represented on this collection. For anyone who was lucky enough to witness Thrice live, this really showcases the very best of their live show; whether it be grungey shuffle of ‘The Weight‘ or the frantic riffing of ‘Deadbolt‘, it’s all there – painstaking stage repartee and all. Drummer Riley Breckenridge has stated that this is a “truly live record… an honest and accurate representation of our show…a memento for our fans“, and the fans are oh-so-grateful for the opportunity to grasp every last moment of the band. Early on in the compilation the crowd screams every single word to the title track of their third album ‘The Artist In The Ambulance‘. Throughout you can imagine transfixed faces, nodding along to something like ‘The Alchemy Index’s ‘Daedalus‘, giving it the absolute reverence it deserves.
As this is the fan’s choice, they have picked well with regards to the moments that made them such a special act. Songs like ‘The Earth Will Shake‘ sound like an absolute behemoth, a devastating sound that could crumble mountains. ‘Red Sky” retains the aching beauty it does on record, its soaring send-off breaking every heart in attendance. This collection could be the thing to convince the casual fan of their groundbreaking greatness, there’s such variety on hand to wow them. The sequencing here is fluid, pairing heavy with heavy, quieter with epic, slow burning anthems, and there is not a dud moment to be found, not one song that doesn’t represent the great band that they were. “Anthology” is the perfect way to sign off proceedings and to give its name to this representation of their oeuvre; it revisits several older lyrics – see how many references you can get!
As is the case for the majority of live albums, this is predominately aimed at collectors. The fact that this is presented (on top of the digital & CD versions) as a 3000-limited 4xLP boxset says it all; the feverish vinyl nerds will be all over this one like a bad rash. However, for long-standing fans like yours truly, this is a succinct summation of their works, that displays them at their very finest. A band that many miss, this unfortunately won’t bring them back (sob sob), but will instead keep them at the forefront of your memory as one of the very best live acts you’re ever likely to see.