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Thursday, 21 February 2013

DEFTONES at Brixton Academy - 20th February, 2013

By the time tonight's first band hit the stage of Brixton Academy, the audience is surprisingly substantial, with all barriers in the standing area occupied and a significant number of groups having chosen their spot for tonight's gig.  The band are called THREE TRAPPED TIGERS, three men, unsurprisingly, who are very vocal about their pleasure to be chosen as support for the legendary Deftones, but not about much else; they are an instrumental noise-rock outfit and as far as opening acts go, one of the most exciting I've seen.  Meshing the punk ethic of the likes of Sonic Youth and Fugazi with the alternative, trippy ambiance of Aphex Twin, they represent the imaginative new wave of rock instrumentalists, comparable perhaps with Battles.  Creative percussion drives home solid groove and jagged melody, and the band's enjoyment of their own music becomes infectious; they command attention from the off.  Some honing needed before they reach the creative heights of some of their influences, but certainly a band to keep an eye out for.   


Following on we have LET LIVE, and after what we have just seen, very little could appear more dull.  Exhibiting bundles of energy, stripping to the waist, running across the monitors and throwing himself from one side of the stage to the other in convulsive rapture, looking like an epileptic puppet off its strings, the vocalist tries to give a performance that assaults the senses, but it is empty of any real conviction, much like the band's music, which takes influence from artists like Glassjaw and the one everybody is here tonight to see.  Unfortunately, he cannot perform this material well, sounds bland, will destroy his voice in no time, and comes across like a bit of a dick.  No amount of instrument destruction or apparent fit-throwing can disguise well enough the fact that this band simply are not that interesting.  The displays of what we are supposed to see as uncontrollable rage bubbling over, possessing the band members in their final throes, just looks like grandstanding and silliness.  Hugely forgettable.   


DEFTONES' self-titled album brought with it a supporting tour that saw Chino Moreno in terrible shape, unwell, I think frequently drunk, and giving weak performances, while his band struggled to keep things together.  Saturday Night Wrist, whilst a disjointed record, found the band back on its feet in the live environment, and this was the last time I happened to see them.  I don't know what their last visit here was like, but now, in support of the fantastic Koi No Yokan, they arrive with an inspired freshness, ready to show everyone else how this sort of music is done.

From the opening song Diamond Eyes, it is immediately clear they are feeling good, the solidarity and clarity in their playing obvious to all, Chino's voice strident and clear.

He takes his regular position atop the sound monitor, so he can command the love from the band's fans right from the get-go.  And what a love it is; between songs the chant of his name is heard from every corner of the auditorium, its nature making it feel more like a football match than a musical performance.  Through their 90 minutes on stage we see good humour, a brief, warm tribute to their still-comatose original bass player Chi Cheng, and most importantly a tight, well-rehearsed delivery of a superb song choice, representing fairly each stage of a career still going strong, loose of the shackles of the nu-metal genre they effectively made cool in the first place.  This does not mean, however, that they have left those roots behind; on the contrary, along with the textured, mature later work, we get a nice selection of lifts from Around the Fur, and a nostalgic encore, consisting of the Adrenaline songs Engine #9 and 7 Words.  It simply confirms they can handle all tones like masters, which their reputation dictates them to be.
The venue's sound system holds up nicely under the weight of the band's loudest, heaviest moments,  the lighting is subtle, occasionally silhouetting the five men in a way that makes them look like kings, and the audience is absolutely in love with a group at the top of their game.  Whether it be by the slam-dancing that still takes place to the likes of the dark My Own Summer and Headup, the 4000 strong chorus of voices screaming, "Guns! Razors! Knives!" during a vital, lurching Rocket Skates, or the emotional intensity as everybody is moved in unison by the classic Change and the powerful newcomer Tempest, Deftones' reputation as a live act metal fans must see is tonight confirmed.   


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