We got there late, and so only caught the second half of Coheed and Cambria‘s set. A band that I’ve never really got into, and having read up since I didn’t realise that all of their albums are concept albums based on sci-fi stories written by one of the band. Well, it explains the prog leanings, that’s for sure. Live, though, they are an impressive beast. Yes, they are prog-influenced, they are prone to the odd moment of prog-wankery, but they do rock very hard indeed, and in closer Welcome Home, they have at least one storming rock beast of a song, even if it does owe at least a little to the mighty Led Zeppelin (even down to the double-necked guitar!). I was left wishing I’d got there a little earlier, and also thinking I really ought to listen to this band a little more sometime.
Not too long a wait, and we were onto the main event, even a few minutes early. While there have been a whole lot of reformations in recent years – as good as some of them have been, really it’s simply a way of the music industry making a better return without too much investment in new talent – there haven’t been that many genuine returns to success for a band that had seen a decline in their fortunes, Machine Head excepted. All that has changed with the return of Deftones, a band seemingly reborn with a new energy and drive, and perhaps a classic case of triumph over adversity.
That adversity, of course, has come from the long-term hospitalisation of bassist Chi Cheng, and the repeated delays that ended up with the long-promised album Eros being shelved, and album Diamond Eyes appearing almost out of nowhere back in the spring, nearly four years since the rather, um, limp album Saturday Night Wrist. What was most striking about Diamond Eyes, though, was it’s vitality. An album looking up at the stars, in dreams, in fantasies, that a band onto their sixth album and having gone through a lean period would normally have no right to make.
So it was no surprise to see a large proportion of the album played, including the searing first single Rocket Skates that opened proceedings in startling, raucous fashion (the near-screamed chorus of “GUNS! RAZORS! KNIVES!” was bellowed back by the entire venue), although it was perhaps interesting that other than that opener, it was the slower tracks from the album that were more effective live – You’ve Seen The Butcher in particular benefited from an almighty low-end, and it’s slow, steady rumble actually sounded pretty menacing.
I’ve seen Deftones twice before – on the Around The Fur tour way back in ’97/’98 (the best gig I ever saw at the old Astoria, and that’s saying something), and then in 2001 on the Back To School tour, where they were rather lifeless and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but onstage. Happily, this was more like the former, and following Rocket Skates were four songs from Around The Fur, starting with a pounding rendition of the title track, and during these songs the band barely paused for breath – ultra-tightly drilled, the whole band barely wasted any time all night, as if on a mission to give the crowd their money’s worth and play as much as possible.
Around the Fur
My Own Summer (Shove It)
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
You’ve Seen The Butcher
Change (In the House of Flies)
Engine No. 9
They delivered on all fronts, too – covering every album except the aforementioned Saturday Night Wrist, and slightly oddly grouping the songs from each album together, broadly. This actually worked better than I might have expected, as if nothing else, tracks flowed well into each other. It also resulted in some unexpected highlights, too, like a gorgeous, spacey Digital Bath, and I even thought Passenger was enthralling (I was never a huge fan of the song on CD). What was really odd, though, is that after such a blistering opening that they played a fair few slower tracks, and being in the heart of the crowd was made a little frustrating by the morons who insist on starting a moshpit to every song (quite how they managed that with Sextape I’ll never know). There were heavier moments in the set, though, and Elite in particular was fucking ace (and Chino, doing the vocals in the front row of the crowd, seemed to be loving every minute of it).
Ok, lets mention Chino Moreno some more. As the frontman, he will of course garner much of the attention, but here he was centre stage, literally and figuratively. The rest of the band were frequently in shadow, happy to acquiesce the limelight to their bandmate who lapped it up, bounced all over the stage, down into the photo pit, onto the monitors and at points was happily leaning right into the crowd and nearly being dragged in. But more importantly, after fifteen years in the limelight (and over twenty years (!) since the band formed) he looked like he was genuinely thrilled to be there.
The real delve into the past was saved for the encore, where the tracks from debut Adrenaline were finally rolled out – and to my astonishment, half the crowd clearly didn’t know them. I could understand this perhaps with the rarely-aired Birthmark (christ, I’d not heard that in a few years, never mind ever hearing it live), but I’d have thought Engine No. 9 and 7 Words in particular would be well-known enough thanks to their regular plays in rock clubs, right? Ok, so they weren’t totally unknown to the crowd, but there were clearly pockets of incomprehension. Still, I loved it, especially Engine No. 9, which has long been one of my favourite Deftones tracks and so I was overjoyed to hear here – and was probably the one point of the night where I seriously considered getting the crap beaten out of me in the ‘pit. The fact that I didn’t suggests that I really am getting old.
I may be getting older, much as the Deftones are, but something along the way has sparked the band back into life in spectacular fashion – as if what has happened to their bandmate Chi Cheng (touchingly Chino dedicated Prince to him during the set) has made them reassess things and decide to enjoy their lives in the fullest way, which includes the music they write, clearly. The best metal show I’ve seen in years, this, and next time they tour this neck of the woods, I’ll be clamouring for tickets once again. Oh, and twenty-three songs in just over an hour and a half? Now that’s what I call making it a good deal for the fans. Other bands who spend ages between songs pissing about, take note.