Thursday @ Starland Balllroom

ThursdaySAYREVILLE, NJ—I juggled my vacation plans in order to catch both post-Christmas Thursday shows at the Starland Ballroom because I knew that this would be the last time the beloved New Brunswick band would be playing live for quite some time, a cold, hard-to-swallow fact that singer Geoff Rickly announced from the stage on Sunday, December 26, 2004. Since I already “knew,” I wasn’t shocked and then ultimately disappointed. See, it pays to be a rock journalist. You learn details beforehand, right?

Anyway, these two shows were Thursday’s send-off, their hiatus, as they reconfigure, take some time to themselves, and to write some new material, for the follow-up to 2003’s War All The Time. That this double shot of shows was performed in front of the band’s home state audience only heightened the excitement and the overall atmosphere. It can be likened to home field advantage at a do-or-die championship football game.

If you were in attendance and couldn’t feel the ageless energy, then you may as well have been comatose. Sure, on the surface, Thursday’s music appeals to the youth set, but dig a little deeper, and surely, you’ll realize that Rickly is this generation’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, thanks to his vivid, detail oriented laments on life. When he sings, you feel as though you are peering over his shoulder into his journal, where nothing is edited.

Starland was filled with kids decked out in Drive Thru Records apparel, hardcore kids sporting Blood Has Been Shed and Killswitch Engage zip up hoodies, and even metal lovin’ long hairs in Cradle Of Filth gear. Obviously, Thursday’s molten rock, a mix of emotional hardcore, distortion, and neo new wave, strikes a chord in us all.

I missed the opening acts both nights. Converge cancelled on Sunday night, and were replaced by the reunited Philadelphia hardcore faves, Turmoil. Thursday’s fellow New Jerseyans, the Dillinger Escape Plan, set the stage for Monday night’s mayhem. Glassjaw were originally intended to perform on Sunday, but the band’s up-in-the-air status and the health of singer Daryl Palumbo (he has a chronic condition) 86ed Glassjaw’s spot on the bill, much to the dismay of many.

As Turmoil exited the stage on Sunday’s show, a friend who had never seen Thursday asked, “Why do you love them so much? Why are they so good?” I couldn’t assemble a coherent answer, so I just said, “They play loud, sloppy music, but it’s just genuine.” Simple. But it couldn’t be more true.

And for over an hour each night, that is just what Thursday did; they played from the heart as though they were playing their last shows ever. But then again, they always play like that. On Sunday night, the band filled its set list with everything the fans wanted to hear. “For The Workforce Drowning” was the opener, and gems like “Paris In Flames, “Between Rupture And Rapture,” “Understanding In A Car Crash,” “How Long Is The Night,” “War All The Time” and more exploded from the stage.

The encore teemed with the graceful, piano-driven “This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb,” the Deadguy-esque, noisily chafing “Jet Black New Year” and what could be deemed their anthem, “Understanding In A Car Crash.” The confetti burst that erupted from the roof during the encore was something you might expect at an arena concert, but given the holiday season, this un-Thursday like gesture was a nice one, all the same.

Despite road rust —they haven’t toured regularly since the summer—every note was carried out with fierce aplomb. Rumors that Thursday, as a band, had expired ran rampant over the summer, but Sunday night’s fire squelched those words. On this night, Rickly announced that keyboardist Andrew was now an “official” member of Thursday after longer than a year as a touring member. Welcome aboard, Andrew. Also, the fact that the band welcomed a new member only further attests to their future as a band.

Monday night featured the set list additions of “I Am The Killer,” which I haven’t seen live in quite some time, as well as Waiting’s “This Side Of Brightness.” The set was jumbled from the night before, but left mostly in tact, except for some order changes. During “War,” the crowd sang over Rickly, even competing with the band’s P.A., in terms of sheer loudness.

Neither set was clean nor completely in key, but that’s the charm, and the immediacy of a Thursday show. The band forsakes perfection for passion, so if you want to listen to a neat package, then stay at home and crank the record. But if you want some sweat with the band’s art of darkness, then these shows were drenching.

A mood of disappointment could be detected as scores of kids, myself included, filed out of the Starland on Monday night near midnight. We won’t be seeing them for a while.

Time to exercise that elusive virtue called patience, I guess.