LIVE: Thrice / Palm Reader @ O2 Forum Kentish Town, London

By Ellie Odurny

Palm Reader have been kings of the underground heavy music scene for many years, and tonight they prove why they deserve that title, with all seven current members throwing themselves wholeheartedly into their support slot for post-hardcore legends Thrice. Opening with the powerful ‘Hold/Release’, Josh McKeown’s voice cuts through the melee of instruments with a stunning mix of impassioned screams and beautiful clean vocals. At times a static figure centre-stage mid-scream, the stillness juxtaposes the fierce energy of the rest of the band who are collectively swinging, spinning and throwing their bodies around with vigour.

This intensity never waivers, with Sam Jones on keys/synth and Heck/Haggard Cat guitarist Matt Reynolds adding additional layers of sonic complexity and balanced aggression to an already accomplished and hard-hitting sequence of big riffs and note-bending melodies. McKeown introduces ‘Stay Down’ from 2021’s ‘Sleepless’ by telling the crowd “This one’s for the ageing hardcore kids – we’re right here with you,” and it’s doubtful there’s a soul in this venue that doesn’t believe him.

Palm Reader tread the line perfectly between the reckless abandon of hardcore fury and slower, Deftones-esque moments of atmospheric doom showcased brilliantly in ‘Inertia’ and closer ‘A Bird and Its Feathers’. This band have toiled for over a decade to hone and develop their sound into what it is today, and whilst McKeown’s chat to the crowd remains humble, the music speaks for itself, loudly and with an air of refinement that demonstrates the band’s ever-growing skill and dedication.

Tonight is the last date of the 20th Anniversary tour celebrating 2003 album ‘The Artist in the Ambulance’, and huge cheers erupt from the crowd as Thrice explode into opening track ‘Cold Cash and Colder Hearts’. Backlit by tubes of neon dotted around the stage, vocalist Dustin Kensrue utters only the words “We’re Thrice and this is The Artist in the Ambulance,” before steaming ahead into ‘Under a Killing Moon’. Judging by the age of the crowd assembled in London’s sold-out Forum, most in attendance have followed Thrice since the album’s release, and at times you can feel the angst seeping from every ageing pore in the venue. Fists are thrust into the air and by the time we reach fan favourite ‘Silhouette’, collective voices are pelting the lyrics back at the band from every level, faces contorted with impassioned emotion.

There’s always a risk with anniversary shows that a band might rely on nostalgia to support the tracks. This is not the case this evening, each emo-drenched post-hardcore track sounding as relevant now as it did during the genre’s heyday in the mid noughties. Musically, Thrice play every beat with pinpoint accuracy, balancing impeccable timing with emotive intensity and anthemic riffs. Brothers Eddie and Riley Breckenridge supply a sturdy backbone on bass and drums for the solid rhythms and deft picking of Kensrue and lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi.

The softer moments of the set are balanced with measured brutality on tracks like ‘Paper Tigers’ and ‘The Abolition of Man’, proving that Thrice can deliver the heavy material now with just as much ardent energy as they did twenty years ago. Thrice have maintained the same lineup since their inception, and they exhibit a synergy that can perhaps only exist after such a lengthy time together. There’s an unspoken cohesion to their performance, they’re tight without sounding predictable, confident without a shred of arrogance, steeped with emotion but always in control.

There’s barely a moment for everyone to catch their breath after the final track of the album, ‘Don’t Tell and We Won’t Ask’ before Kensrue announces “We’re gonna play some more tunes – this is a B side” and launches into ‘Motion isn’t Meaning’ to more rapturous applause and cheers of delight from the crowd. The second half of the set delivers a selection of tracks covering most of Thrice’s back catalogue, from 2002’s ‘Deadbolt’ to 2021’s ‘The Dreamer’ and a fair few in between. The delicate opening bars of penultimate track ‘Of Dust and Nations’ from 2005 release ‘Vheissu’ are met with a roar almost as huge as when the band first took to the stage, the chorus of fan voices once again accompanying Kensrue’s dulcet tones pouring out of the speakers.

It’s testament to Thrice’s enduring popularity that they captivate the audience until everyone in the room has belted out the very last note of ‘The Earth Will Shake’. If the first half of tonight’s show paid homage to the band’s sound at a specific point in time, the rest of the night celebrated their evolution and cemented their place as pioneers of the post-hardcore scene.