Crikey. Over two years already since the last, breathless Deftones show at Brixton, and here we were again, the Deftones with another exceptional new album to showcase.
Unusually for a midweek Brixton show, though, I'd ensured that we got there relatively early, as I wanted to see the first support act, Three Trapped Tigers. Apparently on the tour at the request of the Deftones, their complex, energetic nominally-post-rock sounds clearly gained them a number of new fans across the set. It was also interesting to see them in such a large venue. I first saw them back in summer 2009, in the backroom of a pub, so this was something of a step-change.
O2 Academy, Brixton
20 February 2013
Interestingly, though, over the few years since the band have enhanced their sound without losing the magic from the first place. All of their songs are astonishingly complex, polyrhythmic beasts, stuffed full with drum fills, electronics, samples and wordless vocals, all apparently entirely live and very impressive indeed. Remarkably, though, it isn't art-rock wankery, but songs full of hooks and elements that make you want to dance. Who said post-rock and it's antecedents were boring?
Quite how great they were was rammed home by main support act Letlive, a "metalcore" horrorshow that were enthusiastic, I guess, but had nothing to make me want to stick around. There were riffs, there were screamy vocals, and I had forgotten pretty much all I had heard by the time we got to the bar.
As per last time, Deftones were absolutely outstanding, and blew away the memory of the previous band very quickly indeed. It did, however, have a very different feel as a show to the one two years previously. While that show was ultra-slick, with comparatively little time for much other than playing an extensive set, here things were a little, well, rougher around the edges.
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
My Own Summer (Shove It)
Dai The Flu
Change (In the House of Flies)
Engine No. 9
Not that this was a bad thing, but it did mean that to start with – at least in the opening Diamond Eyes – the sound was a tiny bit muddy, and maybe not everything was clicking as it should. But as the handclaps (backed by much of the crowd!) that heralded the arrival of Poltergeist faded into a torrent of riffage, and into another of those soaring choruses that help to set apart the band from any other, the whole sound simply snapped into clear focus in an instant.
The whole set, in fact, demonstrated this uniqueness time and again, covering all of their career – and, this time, at least something from every album so far, with perhaps a bit less of the new album than I was expecting – a particular and unexpected omission being the lead single Leathers. The thing is, it wasn't really missed all that much, especially as the songs they did play from Koi No Yokan being so good. Especially the epic slow burn of Tempest, which while good enough on CD, is absolutely extraordinary on record, as Chino's voice starts as a croon, before letting loose with his whole range across the rest of the song, the band in perfect step with him.
There weren't too many surprises from the back-catalogue, really – most of the usual old favourites were there (a couple have clearly been dropped to fit in newer songs), but the unexpected stuff was worth it alone. Dedicated to still-recovering bassist Chi Cheng, following his serious car accident a few years back, Dai The Flu's rolling rhythms were a pleasure to hear for the first time in a long, long time, but the best moment of all came when the squalling feedback at the end gently faded into a rumbling, ominous sound. The sound that could only herald Headup, and our thoughts were excitedly confirmed once Stephen Carpenter tore into the riff that opens the song proper.
Needless to say, the crowd happily went nuts, and filled for Max Cavalera on his vocal turn (interestingly that wasn't on the samples triggered, while Maynard's voice in Passenger was, this time), suggesting that we weren't the only ones to be overjoyed to hear this – I don't think I've heard Deftones play this live in many, many years.
With the encore, came once again the really old stuff, the old favourites from Adrenaline, now nearing a remarkable eighteen years old. Needless to say, with the passage of time, more and more younger converts to the band don't know these songs at all, which is a little sad (especially as both Engine No. 9 and 7 Words are still played in rock clubs to this day), but perhaps to be expected. Either way, the roar of approval for both songs was more than good enough.
But the most remarkable thing about the Deftones remains just how good they remain after this long. Yeah, so they had a bit of a quality dip in the last decade, prior to Diamond Eyes (and I still maintain that the loss of Chi Cheng to the band was the catalyst that marked their critical renaissance), and that was the period mostly ignored in this set. But they have evolved and shaped their sound in such a way that all kinds of elements and influences pop up, and have mantained such a wide-ranging sound that no two albums sound the same. The latest album is very much about atmosphere, and they translated that brilliantly to the stage here. Here's hoping the band continue to have this kind of drive and hunger as they continue into their third decade as a band we continue to love and admire.