Live Review: Deftones - Spaceland, Silverlake
Fri, 19 Sep 2008 10:11:43
Deftones' "surprise show" at Spaceland in Silverlake played out like a classic film noir. However, instead of femme fatales and criminal conspiracies, the audience got Chino Moreno's sensual, schizophrenic croon and Stephen Carpenter's six-string warfare. It was more than just a concert; it was one moment of sonic transcendence after another. In the tiny room, the sound flipped from decadent decay to brutal beauty with the shift of a guitar chord. However, Moreno's entrancing and destructive voice captured the crowd. It was beyond "hypnotic." It was pure aural kidnapping. Moreno stayed at the wheel, and the audience was a more-than willing passenger.
Announced a mere day before via the band's MySpace page, the show sold out almost immediately. Since the band hasn't played a gig in over a year, kids clamored for a spot up front. In the early afternoon, droves of fans arrived at the venue just to get close to witnessing the sonic explosion the evening would bring. Fitting the band's nihilistic imagery, Spaceland had the perfect combination of tacky hipster panache and '70s dirtball sleaze. The venue's sparkly chartreuse back curtain made it resemble a high school auditorium. It was the perfect quirky little club for what will be a legendary show.
In true noir fashion, Deftones went thematically deep into a seedy underworld. There were songs about seduction, abduction, addiction and eerie existentialism. Or were there? That's the best thing about the Deftones: that mystique. Very few bands have it. You could psychoanalyze the lyrics for a year and never know what Moreno truly means. That's why the audience clung to his every word.
Intellectual trappings aside, Deftones still slay on stage, and this particular show channeled an unbridled live ecstasy. From the second Moreno uttered the words, "Uh oh," the band was primed to go off. Opening song "Hexagram" swung like a guillotine, as Moreno sprung across the stage with unmatched fury. The crowd immediately exploded, bouncing with every riff. On "My Own Summer," Abe Cunningham and Chi Cheng's drum n' bass groove dripped sex, while "Lotion" was a kinetic aural riot somewhere between The Cure's swoon and Bad Brains' psychosis. "Around the Fur" evoked images of a downward spiral so deep Trent Reznor couldn't even comprehend it—Hollywood's drugs, depravity and dire loneliness collided in the song's hellish landscape.
"Beware" was the soundtrack to a personal apocalypse, complete with crickets. However, the evening's one new song, tentatively titled "Melanie," proved simultaneously rapturous and deadly. Moreno prefaced it by saying, "You haven't heard this one yet." The song's sharp riff clashed and killed, while the chorus soared. The singer lunged into the crowd, and his voice sailed across Carpenter's tidal wave of distortion during the hook. The new cut was edgy and vibrant—like all great Deftones songs are. "Change," "Knife Party" and "Digital Bath" added that classic space rock element to the show. The band excelled in conjuring gorgeously dark imagery through Frank Delgado's bleeding synths and Carpenter's torrential guitar work. "Hole In The Earth" kept up the space theme before "Passenger" brought everything back to that sexual darkness that the band does all so well.
Moreno's raw, refined rage got better with age. He commanded the crowd with a combination of youthful charisma and wise bravado. In between songs, he smiled, "I see a whole lot of motherfuckers I know out there. I'm glad you made it out to this." They were even happier to be there. This was set for the fans. Cuts like "Root," "Nosebleed" and "7 Words" eliciting massive and crazed crowd responses from the airtight club. One fan swung from a speaker as Moreno poured his soul out with each scream. The set covered every permutation of the Deftones' sound, from White Pony's lovelorn look at high school to Around the Fur's vile embrace to Saturday Night Wrist's stoned sonic space travel.
Since 1995, Deftones have been the future of rock music. They've influenced alternative music's zeitgeist with every evolution. However, most of the general music audience has always seemed one step behind them. Hopefully, with 2009's offering, the audience finally catches up. Rock music needs Deftones now more than ever. How many bands have created a mystique and weathered trends the way that Sacramento's favorite sons have? How many artists explore darkness through such beauty? Just like any classic noir tale, it was a combination of sex, violence and shifted perspectives. Isn't that what all great art is about?