Thursday, Cursive, Appleseed Cast, Nate Bergman’s NY show triumphed in the face of COVID roadblocks
Back in November, Thursday announced a headlining 2022 tour with the "dream lineup" of Cursive, Jeremy Enigk, and The Appleseed Cast. That was before Omicron really made its mark in the US, and unfortunately, COVID tainted the dream. After postponing the first portion of the tour, things finally got underway on January 19 and hit NYC's Irving Plaza last night (1/26), though at this point Jeremy Enigk had to drop off all but three dates of the tour, most of The Appleseed Cast got COVID so frontman Chris Crisci had to play a solo set, and current Thursday guitarist Norman Brannon (also of Texas Is The Reason) got COVID so Thursday had to teach their songs to an array of fill-in guitarists at the last minute. But Thursday and their friends made lemonade, and the Irving Plaza show felt like a triumph in the face of so many roadblocks.
With Jeremy Enigk off the bill, the Irving show was opened by Nate Bergman, who kicked off the night with a mostly acoustic solo set of twangy Americana that really showed off his powerhouse pipes. ("If you like what you hear, I'm Nate Bergman, and if you don't, I'm Jeremy Enigk," he quipped at one point.) Nate also became the MVP of the night, aiding The Appleseed Cast on second guitar for one song and filling in with Thursday for a few songs too, and The Appleseed Cast's Chris Crisci thanked Nate for giving him the courage to play his set solo.
With the rest of The Appleseed Cast out of the picture (until Denver on February 5, Chris said), Chris took the stage alone shortly after Nate's set ended, and he clearly had a sense of humor about the whole situation, which made the set even more charming than it would've been otherwise. ("Okay this next one's gonna be awkward," he said before every song.) He did the first two songs with nothing more than his own guitar and voice, and for a band who are usually known for towering post-rock crescendos, it was actually kinda nice to hear Appleseed Cast songs in this stripped-back way. It was a reminder that, underneath all the layers and effect pedals, Chris is just a great songwriter. For the next couple songs in his set, he used a backing track with other instruments including drums that he said he programmed himself at the very last minute, and if you weren't looking at the empty drum set on stage, it really did feel like a full-band Appleseed Cast show. You could get lost in the songs the same way you would at one of their regular gigs. And for the very last song, Nate came out to play second guitar and Cursive frontman Tim Kasher joined on drums so The Appleseed Cast could end the set with an extended noise jam. It was a pleasant surprise, and a great ending to a very unique Appleseed Cast set.
Up next were Cursive, the only band whose lineup was unaffected by COVID, and you could tell that Tim especially was so grateful to be there. He talked about believing in humanity and being thankful for everyone being as responsible as possible during these weird times, and he and the rest of the band just seemed ready to put on one of the best shows of their lives. Cursive always bring it, but Wednesday night's show felt like one for the record books. Tim was as animated and expressive as ever, the band's string and horn-fueled post-hardcore was as weird and manic and intense as ever, and they were locked in from start to finish, teasing fan faves like "A Gentleman Caller" and "Big Bang" throughout the set before finally playing them near the end, and touching on a great variety of highlights from all throughout their career. In a month where people can't stop talking about "emo nostalgia," Cursive reminded everyone that they're lifers.
Finally, it was Thursday's turn, and before even playing a note, Geoff Rickly explained to the crowd what happened with Norman and how a few of the band's crew members would be filling in, and he jokingly assured the crowd, "This is not going to be as professional as the Cursive set you just saw." But as Geoff went on to say, Thursday come from a world of DIY basement shows where being professional doesn't matter, and he promised Wednesday night would be "a basement show in Irving Plaza," which was met by an eruption of cheers. The band then launched into "For the Workforce, Drowning," and it was clear off the bat that Geoff was underselling the set. They might've had to make some last-minute changes and sacrifices, but this was the Thursday we know and love, sounding as world-conquering as ever.
As the night went on, Thursday cycled through their array of guest guitarists and did some songs just as a four-piece, and they loaded the setlist with classics: "The Other Side of the Crash/Over and Out (Of Control)," "Cross Out the Eyes," "Signals Over the Air," "Jet Black New Year," "This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb," "Autobiography of a Nation," "Division St.," "War All the Time" -- you couldn't ask for a more rock-solid setlist and Thursday played every song with all the passion and fervor they've had for the past two decades. (My only complaint: with Tim Kasher in the house, I really thought they'd do "Ladies and Gentlemen: My Brother, the Failure"!!) And the show ended with a treat that's become something of a minor tradition: they brought out Wax Idols' Hether Fortune to sing with Geoff on set-closer "Understanding In A Car Crash." ("We're doing this one with only one guitar, but we have two singers instead," Geoff joked.) I've seen videos of Hether doing this one with them, but this was my first time catching it in person, and it really was awesome and a fun way to breathe new life into the song that Thursday have played more times than any other song.
Towards the end of the show, Geoff talked about how grateful he was to be able to pull this tour off, because he and the rest of Thursday really believe in the human connection that music offers, and even if he didn't say it, that felt like the overall theme of the night. It's still a weird time to be at shows, and I feel like all of us are learning not to take the power of live music for granted. And also: not to take the existence of Thursday for granted. They've broken up before, and they've suggested in the past that the reunion wouldn't continue without new music (which they haven't released in over 10 years), but they've kept going, kept bringing people together with their timeless songs, and kept providing the kind of true catharsis that so many of us need now more than ever.
Thursday's tour continues tonight (1/27) in Maine, and it returns to the NYC area on Saturday (1/29) at Long Island's Paramount (tickets) and on February 27 in the band's home state of NJ at Starland Ballroom (tickets). All dates here.
As for Jeremy Enigk, maybe we'll see more of him if that rumored Sunny Day Real Estate reunion tour happens.
Photos by Azu Rodriguez continue below...