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Thor 

With Amps II Eleven and the Subtones. Thursday, August 11, at the Beachland Ballroom.

The role of gimmickry in great rock and roll can't be underestimated. Whether they're letting the drummer sing or dressing all nine band members in boiler suits and hideous masks, the best bands know you gotta give the people something to look at while they're listening.

Thor understands this. The guy's a former competitive bodybuilder, and he's been spicing up his shows with ESPN-worthy feats of strength for years: tearing through phone books, bending iron bars, smashing cinder blocks across his chest, and on and on. Even though he's middle-aged (he began performing in the mid-'70s), he hasn't given up the flexing and grunting.

The thing is, though, Thor brings the rock too. His new album, Thor Against the World, is a little less overtly metal than earlier releases; this time out, he's going for a '70s glam/hard-rock feel, and he nails it. His vocals might be a little limited, but the riffs are as solid as the cinder blocks he crushes onstage.

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