Agora For Two
March 7, 2019
Thursday, a post-hardcore band from New Brunswick, New Jersey, brought its 20th anniversary farewell (for now) tour to The Agora Ballroom for two nights of shows on Monday, March 4th and 5th. To cap off their career, the band played its two most-acclaimed and popular albums: Full Collapse and War All The Time.
Night One kicked off with 2001’s Full Collapse, which is, by and large, one of the most influential albums ever to come out of the post-hardcore/screamo scene. The six-piece band has routinely played a good chunk of the album during its sets since its release, but rarely from start to finish. Night two saw 2003’s War All the Time played in its entirety. Before Tuesday night’s show, only four tracks from that album have been in heavy rotation during previous tours.
During both of the shows, front man Geoff Rickly made mention that the whole band had been sick for over a week. They debated cancelling these shows, but felt that this may be the last chance they'd ever to play these shows in this town. Luckily for the rabid fans in attendance, they didn't have to cancel. Sick or not, the band never seemed to run out of energy during either of the night’s sets; Geoff’s voice sounded strong, Tom and Steve’s backing vocals/screams were on point, and the band sounded as tight as ever.
Starting with the lead-off track from Full Collapse, “Understanding in a Car Crash,” the band grabbed the crowd and didn’t let go. During the show, Geoff mentioned that he knew this album was special to people: How they grew with it and that the guys were glad to be able to bring it out one last time. The band would reprise the song “Understanding in a Car Crash” at the end of “How Long Is the Night?,” before leaving the stage for the encore. The middle part of the album, “Cross Out the Eyes,” “Pairs In Flames” and “I Am the Killer” had the crowd moving as the place exploded.
Night Two started out with “For the Workforce, Drowning” and the band quickly whipped everyone into a frenzy with the fast-paced songs on the front end of the album. Geoff’s voice sounded strong but it seemed as if the time between shows he wasn’t as sick and he sounded even stronger.
Most of these tunes were being played for the first time in Cleveland, but again the band ripped through the set and it sounded like songs they’ve been playing every show since 2003. “This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb” was the slowest and quietest moment of the two nights, with Andrew Everding taking to the keyboards and Geoff providing the vocals. Both men showed great range and extended an acapella outro of the song. The set ended with “Tomorrow I’ll Be You,” an overly-emotional song that capped off two nights of emotional music as the highlight of the two-night stand.
On both occasions the band looked happy to be on stage, interacting with each other, laughing and having a blast. Each member brought their A-game and took the care to put on special shows for the near capacity crowds. Having played The Agora over ten times in their history, Geoff took the time to mention how The Agora has changed. He mentioned how at one time we all probably thought it was nice, but now we realize all our memories with it are dusty and dirty. The second night also was touring member Stu’s final show with the band and they celebrated with balloons and backdrop for him exclaiming “THANK YOU STU!”
During the encore each evening the band chose to play a song off of their album A City by the Light Divided, “Counting 5-4-3-2-1” and “The Other Side of the Crash/Over and Out (Of Control).” The albums play on various emotional levels; loss, suicide, death, and many other dark themes, but 16-18 years removed, songs like “Autobiography of a Nation” and “Steps Ascend” are timeless; almost anyone at any age can relate and take something from them.
Thursday was a band that saved a lot of people’s lives; it was great to see that both nights the outfit ended the show with its staple closer, “Jet Black New Year." Not only does it end the show on a high-energy, moving sing-along, it was a song that acted as a middle-ground between both albums (as it was on the EP Five Store Falling that came out between both of the records). It's also a tune about a new year and new hope that ended the band's presumed final shows with the improvised lyrics, “We’re going to party like we just ran out of time.”
Hopefully the band will be back someday for its next chapter and they haven’t run out of time.
Review by Troy Smith