Thursday / Portugal. The Man / Circle Takes The Square @ Philadelphia 11/4

November 6, 2007

Midway through Thursday’s set Sunday night, frontman Geoff Rickly explained to the crowd a phenomenon that the band witnessed after releasing their major label debut four years ago. Rickly said that as the band’s shows got bigger and bigger, more and more “assholes” started coming to the shows. With the release of A City By The Light Divided, though, Rickly believes that Thursday finally made the record they wanted to make, and that the “assholes were weeded out”–and only the true Thursday fans remain today.

Coincidentally, four years ago was the last time I saw Thursday play South Philadelphia’s Fillmore (formerly known as the TLA), a week after the release of their major label debut, War All The Time. Of course, Rickly was talking about the large halls and arenas the band played in the months following that show, and Island Records’s push to turn the band into “the next Nirvana”, intended to appeal to Nickelback-listening frat-boys who drink twelve-packs of beers before concerts (see the band’s latest documentary, Kill The House Lights, to hear label executives explain it in those exact words).

Thursday rolled into the Fillmore Sunday evening with Circle Takes the Square and Portugal. The Man. I arrived early to the venue and met up with the guys, and got a few things signed–their new DVD and a tour poster from a few years ago. I spoke with keyboardist Andrew Everding about the band’s future goals, and he said that they plan to begin writing their next full-length immediately following their New Years Eve show at Starland Ballroom. Drummer Tucker Rule discussed his new kit, including his 26″ kicker that makes him look even smaller than he already is.

I asked guitarist Tom Keeley about his inspirations musically, and he began to rattle off composers, such as Clint Mansell who composed the score for Requiem for a Dream. Geoff spoke about the meaning behind “Cross Out The Eyes”, which he said he’s pretty sure he’s never told anyone: it’s about a fist-fight he got into with his best friend, and it’s about “tearing yourself down” to find out who you really are. I asked him about his grindcore project, United Nations–a topic he was eager to bring up, and he said that Tim Giles will be producing the effort. He also said that collaborator Daryl Palumbo’s situation has gotten somewhat better, as he can now take a shot to help treat his Crohn’s disease.

I anticipated seeing Circle Takes The Square for the first time live, and I grabbed a spot close to the stage’s barrier. Their 2004 full-length combines post-hardcore, hardcore-punk, and experimental rhythms and melodies, so I was interested in seeing what exactly they could do live. They didn’t disappoint, playing for about a half-hour, constantly changing tempo and mood. The band played tight together, an impressive feat considering the amount of technical proficiency required to recreate the band’s songs live. A few rabid CTTS fans were in attendance, but most of the audience was experiencing the band live for the first time. The band played a few new songs before closing with “Interview at the Ruins”.

Alaskan natives Portugal. The Man took the stage next, my first time seeing frontman John Gourley live in nearly five years since his days in Anatomy of a Ghost. The band opened with “AKA M80 The Wolf” and extended the song with a long jam; in fact, the band only played about five songs over their forty minute set, using most of the time to extend their songs into jam sessions. This is probably related to the band’s European tour during which they were expected to play for two hours and needed to fill time with jams. The band clearly enjoyed every moment on stage, dancing around during the whole set. They employed the use of a handful of untypical percussive instruments, including congas and tambourines. PTM drew heavily from Waiter: “You Vultures!” but did play “Church Mouth” and “The Devil”. One of my personal favorite songs, “Chicago”, received live treatment, as well.

Thursday came on stage around 10PM, and Geoff introduced the band before kicking into “For The Workforce, Drowning”. “Between Rupture and Rapture” followed, a rare treat from War All The Time I haven’t heard in some time. The band drew heavily from that album, actually; the full setlist:

For The Workforce, Drowning
Between Rupture and Rapture
Dead Songs
The Other Side of The Crash/Over And Out (Of Control)
Division St.
Understanding In A Car Crash
Signals Over The Air
At This Velocity
Autobiography of a Nation
Paris In Flames
Jet Black New Year
This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb
Cross Out the Eyes
Ladies and Gentlemen: My Brother, The Failure
The Lovesong Writer

(4 Full Collapse, 5 War All The Time, 3 A City By The Light Divided, 2 Kill The House Lights, 1 EP)

Geoff introduced “Dead Songs” as a “fuck-you” to the bland, generic pop that the mainstream tries to feed to America. Following “The Other Side Of The Crash” (counterpoint to Full Collapse‘s “Understanding In A Car Crash”), the band played “Division St.”, a song Geoff explained earlier in the evening about him getting jumped in New Brunswick. Geoff had stories about most of the songs; he proudly proclaimed that Thursday is about human rights, and that “Signals Over The Air” is about fighting for human rights, specifically gay rights (though he has also explained in the past that the song is about women’s rights).

Discussion about Secondhand Lions, featuring Hayley Joel Osment, found its way back into Thursday’s set, as a kid near me in the crowd had given Geoff the DVD earlier in the night, as a joke regarding the band’s near fatal plane trip in Australia (black humor, right?) that inspired “At This Velocity”.

“Paris In Flames” was added to the setlist midway through because “Philadelphia is the closest thing to a hometown show on this tour”. I’m less and less excited for “Jet Black New Year” every time they play it live–perhaps because of all the kids in the crowd yelling for it between every song–but the band plays it so well every night. Earlier in the evening Tim said something is being worked on to incorporate the song’s countdown thematically into their New Year’s Eve show, but no official details have been worked on.

The band walked off stage after “Cross Out The Eyes”, but returned with “Ladies and Gentleman”, from Kill The House Lights. In addition to “Dead Songs”, it was one of two songs I was hearing for the first time live, and the band played them both superbly. “The Lovesong Writer” closed the evening, a track about all of the fake love songs that get played on the radio.

Throughout the set, Geoff spent much of the time in the crowd; I got to sing a few lines into the mic, and helped hold him up for a handful of songs. I have never seen Tim so active on stage, and Steve’s backing vocals have become more prominant. Andrew’s presence in the band isn’t simply keyboards, either, as he provides strong backing vocals to nearly every song. The band’s live show is best described by Rev. Dave Ciancio on Kill The House Lights–the band pours their entire souls into the music, and it’s apparent that they are genuine in their words.

I’m glad Thursday is mixing up their setlist a little bit–it’s nice to hear a lot of older cuts and some less common songs, like “Falling Bomb” and “Between Rupture and Rapture”. The tour’s routing isn’t too long–it only runs two weeks–but if the show stops in your area during the next week or so do not miss out on a chance to catch one of the best live acts in music today.