Concluding a nationwide tour that began just one state away, Circa Survive wrapped things up with two sold out evenings at New York City’s Irving Plaza. On the second night — supported by Animals as Leaders, Codeseven, and Dredg — Circa Survive demonstrated why Blue Sky Noise is one of the year’s best albums, and why the band is one of rock’s most impressive live acts.
Instrumental metal trio Animals as Leaders started the evening at 7PM. Wielding eight-string guitars, Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes shredded for more than twenty minutes, blasting thick, fast-paced riffs on top of thundering percussion. The Washington, DC, natives demonstrated incredible technical ability, wowing a receptive Irving Plaza crowd.
North Carolina’s Codeseven performed next, putting together a thirty minute set that was generally slow, droning, and boring. The five piece began with “Sunflower” — the last track from their last album, 2004’s Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds. The band stuck largely to that Equal Vision Records release, stumbling through a series of uninteresting cuts such as “Southie” and “Alt. Wave”. “The Rescue” was the first exciting song and began to show promise, but the 2002 track wrapped up the band’s setlist at 8:15 PM.
Nasty Little Revolution
The Camel City
In stark contrast, Dredg performed a fantastic set just twenty minutes later. Beginning with “Pariah”, the first song from their excellent 2009 release, The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion, the band quickly set the tone for their forty-five minute set. Frontman Gavin Hayes lead the group’s technically intricate charge, with a surprising number of fans singing along to every word. Highlights of the excellent performance included a clever use of electric slide guitar on “Bug Eyes” and As Tall As Lions’s Duncan Tootill providing trumpet on “R U OK?”
The brand new “Upon Returning” offered a glimpse of what Dredg is working on for their next release, while El Cielo closer “The Canyon Behind Her” found the band pleasing longtime fans with with the 2002 selection. The Californians closed with a jam known as “DTD”, or “Drum Take Down”, an enjoyable live-only piece.
Ode to the Sun
R U OK?
The Canyon Behind Her
Circa Survive arrived on stage just before 10 PM, the sold out Irving Plaza roaring at the appearance of frontman Anthony Green. Much to the delight of a crowd eager to hear the band’s latest opus, the five-piece tore through Blue Sky Noise‘s first three songs in order, unleashing remarkable performances of “Strange Terrain”, “Get Out”, and “Glass Arrows” back-to-back-to-back. The band didn’t launch into the album’s fourth track — that would go last — but followed with the moody Juturna cut, “The Great Golden Baby”. The four minute favorite was appended with Green singing pieces of Ahmad’s classic “Back in the Day” in the outro: “Back in the days when I was young / I’m not a kid anymore, but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again”.
The band continued on with Juturna, this time joined by Animals as Leaders’s Abasi for “The Glorious Nosebleed”. Preceded by an extended introduction, “In Fear and Faith” sounded fresh and well-placed in the set. The band dug into their 2007 record for the first time with “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose” before inviting members of their fan club on stage to help perform “Spirit of the Stairwell” with Green on acoustic guitar. The unique performance — which also featureded lead guitarist Brendan Ekstrom on xylophone — was dedicated to James, Green’s son.
Intent on bringing things back to life after the brief acoustic intermission, balloons poured into the crowd (with Green jumping in as well) as Circa Survive lunged into back-to-back hard hitting performances of “Imaginary Enemy” and “Through the Desert Alone”, once again highlighting how well Blue Sky Noise flows together. “Act Appalled” segued into the outro of At the Drive-in’s “Invalid Litter Dept.” before ” On Letting Go closer “Your Friends Are Gone” wrapped things up and the Pennsylvania quintet walked off stage.
The band returned with a great performance of Blue Sky Noise‘s final moments — “Compendium” into “Dyed in the Wool”. “I Felt Free” was the next song on the printed setlist, but due to overwhelming chants from the crowd Circa Survive agreed to play “Stop the Fuckin’ Car”, noting that it was the first time the band had ever caved into audience pressure to play an unscheduled song. When the band did get to “I Felt Free”, crew, bands, and friends all joined on stage for the song in celebration of the end of the band’s most successful tour to date.
The Great Golden Baby
The Glorious Nosebleed
In Fear and Faith
The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose
Spirit of the Stairwell
Through The Desert Alone
Your Friends Are Gone
Dyed in the Wool
Stop The Fuckin’ Car
I Felt Free
For ninety minutes, Circa Survive delivered their best performance to date. Ekstrom provided fantastic harmonies to Green’s soaring vocals while the entire band just clicked. Adding to the band’s impeccable musical performance, inflatable balloons and what seemed like an unending supply of confetti complemented outstanding lighting to provide a complete, immersive experience. It’s hard to imagine Circa Survive topping themselves in 2011 — but then again, it was hard to imagine that members of This Day Forward, Saosin, and Taken could top the output of their previous bands. The anomalous act will likely prove us all wrong again. I hope they do.