Aftermath: Alkaline Trio and Thrice at House of Blues

It’s troubling why I don’t enjoy Alkaline Trio’s newer albums. Everything through Good Mourning is lovely, but the last two not so much. But why not? The band hasn’t changed. Its two original songwriters, Matt Skiba and Dan Andriano, are still behind the wheels, but something just isn’t the same.

And it’s not that I don’t want to like the new stuff. I wish there was a new “My Friend Peter” or “Radio” or “Bleeder” that could soothe my alcohol-stained, broken-hearted woes. But the new songs come up short.

Luckily, that wasn’t much of an issue at House of Blues last night. The majority of the Trio’s offerings were from older albums, including standard (and always appreciated) opening number “Goodbye Forever,” and other greatest hits such as “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire,” “Crawl” and “Hell Yes,” which Skiba played at the crowd’s request even though he could barely remember the lyrics (they helped him out, of course).

It felt like the kind of show that could only be born out of mishap and last-minute rescheduling; Skiba commented a few times at how surprised the band was that anybody showed up at all. The size of the crowd hinted, however, that maybe many of the ticket buyers for the Verizon show weren’t going to see Rise Against; when Alkaline closeed with “Radio” – its breakup song that stands easily alongside even Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (yeah, I said it) – they sang every word.

Thrice (above) once seemed destined to become a metal powerhouse. The Irvine, California quartet’s career started out with a blend of pop, punk and metal before gradually leaving behind the first two. Still, some newer songs have a strong mid-‘90s Illinois, post-hardcore sound (read: Braid). And it’s good.

Other songs demonstrated Thrice’s mastery of all things melodic with both guitars and vocals paired perfectly together – but once again, less metal, more rock. The band may be headed in a different direction than hinted at by its original sound, but it’s hardly a disappointment. It’s as if Thrice now has the skills the group were always striving for, and are now capable of writing the songs it’s been trying to compose all along.

Live, the foursome is still as energetic as they were when they first played Houston at Fitzgerald’s and the now-defunct Oven. Never a pause and technical difficulties are just a chance for rare moments. As bassist Ed Breckenridge dealt with some amp issues, singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue broke into a solo version of “Stare at the Sun” as the crowd joined him for the chorus.

The words – “’Cause I’m due for a miracle/ I'm waiting for a sign/ I'll stare straight into the sun/ And I won't close my eyes/ Till I understand or go blind” – filled the House of Blues. Thrice could’ve ended the show right there, but it was only halfway into the set, so the band played another handful of newer tracks and then said goodnight.

Although Alkaline Trio and Thrice’s latest efforts might not be on my list of downloadable prospects, Monday’s show definitely got me jonesin’ to revisit their older tunes again. Well played. – Dusti Rhodes