For fans of a certain period of 00’s emo and post-hardcore, a co-headline of Thrice and Coheed and Cambria felt like such a tantalising offer. Two of the most musically interesting and progressive bands from that era who have found real second winds in the late 2010s that is still carrying on now. Both with new albums in tow, they make their overdue live return to the UK.
Even before either headlining band takes to the stage, Touche Amore (8) deliver an opening set of such brilliance. Touches brand of melodic hardcore could get lost as an opening band in a venue this size, particularly with Brixton’s usually shoddy sound for openers. But they face no such problems, the ferocious punk attack hits hard but none of the intricacies or beauty in the music are lost at all. Unsurprisingly songs from Stage Four and their latest album Lament basically make up the entire set and those songs so natural on a stage this side. And there’s a clear dedicated group down front who love Touche and the band feed off of that. Even with Stage Four still being their best work, Limelight has become such a highlight in their set allowing the scope to expand and the final crescendo sounds incredible. Its a fantastic set to start the evening, capped off with Flowers & You which just sounds as stunning as it is emotionally devastating.
Despite being billed as a co-headliner, I think its fair to say one band tonight were still the bigger draw. So even with them both having hour long sets, Thrice (8) feel like they are still warming the crowd up for Coheed and Cambria. But obviously they are still incredible. The thing with Thrice is you are always gonna get a no frills show. They don’t bring any real production, instead its just four guys playing their songs and putting everything into that performance. And the reason this works is few bands sound as impeccable live as Thrice do. Every little detail and nuance from the record is there, but the performance still feels real and raw. Dustin Kensrue’s vocals are a big part of this, there is so much emotion in what he does even with it sounding near note perfect to the record. Every little vocal crack reminds you its so real.
The most interesting thing about Thrices set tonight is their refusal to rely on nostalgia and crowd pleasers. This isn’t exactly new for Thrice but at a show like tonight where its two bands who are mostly associated with the 00’s you’d think they’d lean on that. Instead its largely made up with material from the last 10 years, mostly their latest album Horizons/East. Moments like dropping Artist in the Ambulance third or the one two of Where Idols Once Stood and The Red Death get the biggest reaction from the crowd. But otherwise this is a set for the Thrice die hards in the room. Which there are still plenty of, but you can feel the back of the room drifting off during a song like Dandelion Wine. Not that this hurts the set at all. Thrice are just everything you could want a rock band to be. Big, catchy yet nuanced songs filled with intricacies. And their refusal to rely on feelings for albums from nearly 20 years ago shows they are still forward thinking and wanna push themselves.
This just left Coheed and Cambria (9) to deliver the main event for the evening. And the level of dedication from the audience tonight was genuinely surprising. Coheed have always existed in this weird space of being a big band but still feeling like a sort of cult band. And the reaction from a packed out Brixton Academy shows just what this band means to their fans. And its not just for the older material either. Similar to Thrice, Coheed lean heavily on their brilliant new album. And it feels like this album has already cemented its place with the fans going off the sing along to Beautiful Losers. Or how that opening riff to Shoulders makes the crowd lose it. The synthpop madness of A Disappearing Act closes out this opening run focused on their newer material and its great to see Coheed actually play this live and not rely on a backing track.
The highlight of the set then comes though in the still stunning title track to In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. 9 minutes just fly by during this epic, and the level of passion the entire room screams “Man your own Jackhammer, Man your battle stations” back at the band shows just why this song is a classic and why fans are so dedicated. Again Coheed sound absolutely fantastic and Claudio is just a whirlwind of hair flying around the stage during the songs. Its a much flashier set than Thrice, nothing summing this up better than Claudio playing guitar solos behind his head on the most ridiculous double neck guitar during Welcome Home. Which is obviously still brilliant.
It’s a shame the co-headlining nature of tonight means Coheed’s set does feel a little short for them. But the encore of The Running Free is such a euphoric moment it’s hard to imagine anyone leaving tonight feeling disappointed. One of the most uplifting things about this gig though was two bands who some would argue had their peak well over 10 years ago refusing to rely on nostalgia for that time. unlike so many of their peers. Both bands have always sat on the more progressive side of emo and post-hardcore musically, and it’s just great to see that attitude carry over into how they present themselves live now.
Photos taken at the Manchester Academy show by Cait Maxwell.