THURSDAY. Zodiac, Oxford. 26.05.06

It’s been nearly two years since Thursday were last in the UK and even longer since any new material. So after a lengthy wait the New Jersey sextet (now featuring keyboardist Andrew Everding full-time) return for a flying seven-stop run with cracking new album ‘A City By The Light Divided’ in tow.

With all that time off, new songs to learn and this being the first night of the tour, the band could be forgiven for sounding a little rusty but apparently Thursday have a point to prove. The gunshot drumming, buzzsaw guitars, layered vocals and Everding’s added dimensions mean the set sounds huge. Geoff Rickly looks healthier than he has in years and throws himself into tunes like crowd favourite ‘For The Workforce, Drowning’ and new single ‘Counting 5-4-3-2-1’ with equal reckless abandon. Quality levels don’t drop an inch throughout but it’s not until they play flawless renditions of ‘Cross Out The Eyes’ and ‘Jet Black New Year’ you realise how essential this band remain and just how much their passion and honesty is missed. And nobody here would swap this show for front row tickets to the next Aiden gig, not for anything in the world.

CITY AND COLOUR+ Jacob's Stories. Camden Barfly, London. 25.05.06

Dallas Green never even saw this coming. His self-confessed ‘soft songs’ were only supposed to be for him to play, to help him work through some issues or jam the kinks out of tunes for his day job in Alexisonfire. They weren’t supposed to be flown around the world and performed in front of awe-filled and attentive audiences. But that’s how it is.

Despite the early doors (enforced so that 65 Days Of Static, playing upstairs tonight, don’t thud the show to death from above) the Barfly is full. Which means plenty of people get to hear Stuart Lee’s Radiohead-ian brilliance. Alone on stage but armed with keyboard, drum machine and the Jacob’s Stories moniker, it’s the mantra piano of ‘A Night With Steve’, hypnotic chirping of ‘Unfinished Idea’ and lilting but commanding nature of Lee’s voice that deserve to make the man a millionaire.

None of this is about the big bucks though. When the headliner has to squeeze through the crowd to get to the stage and tune his own guitar, a Chris Carrabba-type confessional is clearly not on the cards. Green doesn’t even cut a very demanding figure once he’s up there; in fact he looks a little dazed, like he still can’t believe that people want to see him this way. It’s his songs that compel all the attention. In between digs at the British transport system and the LostProphet’s ‘interesting’ haircuts tunes like ‘Hello, I’m In Delaware’ and ‘Comin’ Home’ are transformed. Fragile ballads on CD are stretched out into powerful moving tales, infused with genuine heart and real tragedy. During ‘Save Your Scissors’ Green asks the crowd to sing but few people do, eager to get the man himself back to the microphone. That he can do this; talk to the crowd with good humour, modesty and respect, and never miss a beat during heartfelt performances of ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Missing’, is enchanting.

The city was London and the colours were vivid and sharp. Even if Green never meant it to be this way, tonight was simply breathtaking.


DEAD TO FALL- The Phoenix Throne

Much like Giant Haystacks, Chicago metallers Dead To Fall are very heavy, probably quite imposing in the flesh and capable of delivering all sorts of killer moves. Unfortunately just like professional wrestling there doesn’t seem to be any real feeling behind the violence of 'The Phoenix Throne'. ‘Chum Fiesta’ could be used to induce heart attacks and ‘Heroes’ is classic sweaty thrash but beyond the tough exterior this is a band only play fighting.



Kids these days. Forming in Canada at the tender age of 14, Protest The Hero have spent the last two years working on this, their debut album proper. Now 19 and with tours alongside Every Time I Die, The Bled and The Fall Of Troy under their belts and an upcoming UK tour and appearance at Download to look forward to they’re planning to make as much of a splash here as they have in their home country.

It’s easy to see why they’ve made an impact. This is a thrill-splattered combo of Coheed’s dizzying heights, As I Lay Dying’s numbing rumble, the murderous garage groove of new Every Time I Die and the breathtaking gallop of old Iron Maiden. The vocal inflections match all the musical madness too. Rody Walker’s high tone initially sticks out but soon seems like the only thing that would work, there are gang vocals, spoken and screamed back-ups and even a beautiful female croon.

Diversity like this is certainly striking, the musicianship is mind-boggling for some so young, but it’s often confusing. On first listen there is little here to really grab onto. ‘Nautical’ and ‘Blindfolds Aside’ are stuffed with memorable melodic hooks and ‘Turn Soonest…’ slows spectacularly from speedy metal thrashing to eerie spoken word passages to bruising metalcore to soft pop-like melodies and back again but elsewhere it gets too much. ‘Bury The Hatchet’ is crushingly heavy and ‘She Who Mars The Skin Of The Gods’ is impressive for sure but they ride too many genres, only settling down to create something memorable for moments at a time. The highlights here aren’t tracks but fleeting minutes and seconds.

It’s nowhere near a total failure though. You may need a degree in mathematics to keep proper time with it but ‘Kezia’ is a mighty fine first full-length and a solid sign of greatness to come. Protest The Hero remain paupers to the princes of Between The Buried And Me and The Red Chord but with time and this, a more dynamic and softer option, on their side, they could get very big indeed.

Also appears at Rock Midgets