Live Review: Deftones - Ventura Theater, Ventura
Sun, 21 Sep 2008 19:32:38
"Welcome to Baltimore, duck muthafucka," was emblazoned on the back of a tall, SoCal-looking blonde girl's t-shirt. As the Deftones brought an entrancing "Change" to the Ventura Theater, the blonde writhed and gyrated on an equally striking (and equally drunk) female friend. It was a strange scene of seduction that fit the song's sexual darkness. However, the mosh pit still erupted during the last distorted crescendo. Only at a Deftones show could moments of extreme sensuality be juxtaposed so seamlessly with complete devastation. That's why the Ventura Theater was way over sold, and that's why Deftones are one of the most important alternative bands ever.
There was no self-indulgent pomp and circumstance—just an incredible 90-minute set of fan favorites and a few surprises. The dancing drunk girls didn't necessarily bother anyone either—though the first thought that sprung to mind was, "It's a long way back to L.A. Why do people like that have to share that same highway with everyone else?"
The Ventura Theater was a fitting backdrop for Deftones. It's got an old '70s vibe complete with tiny stars grafted on the paint-chipped walls and some what-the-hell-were-they-thinking carpeting. Even though the show was completely sold out, about 20 kids waited by the back door of the theater trying to faintly hear the show resound through the night. As "Lotion" hypnotized and decimated the sweat-drenched crowd, a pretty young girl with long black hair sat forlornly outside because she didn't have a ticket. One other concertgoer simply told her, "Put a 20 dollar bill in your hand and walk up to security. It always works. I got into U2 that way." She still scowled, staring back at her friend. "We have to get in," she exclaimed. "Chino's voice is just hypnotizing."
"Hypnotizing" doesn't even begin to describe Deftones' enigmatic mainman, Moreno. "Divine" would be more fitting. He's become a veritable icon—one of the few that rock music has left. He and his band mates have more artistic integrity than any of the musicians that they came up with. They proved that on stage in Ventura. With no intro music and a black backdrop, the band launched right into "Hexagram," and they never looked back.
Deftones are the lone middle ground between primal and cerebral. The distorted strains of "My Own Summer" and "Around the Fur" married Stephen Carpenter's throat-slashing guitars and Moreno's dreamy melodies. Moreno kneeled on the front speaker, bridging the gap between himself and the barricade. During "Beware the Water," Moreno gasped, "Do you like the way the water tastes?" At the same time, Abe Cunnigham's slow beats and Chi Cheng's bass synched up in beautiful discord. Carpenter's feedback reverberated along with Moreno's voice, and the song simply bled darkness.
Right before, a crushing "Elite," Moreno asked, "You wanna keep this shit going?" The crowd roared, and his first scream pierced through the din. After "Hole In the Earth," the band dropped one new song, and it was beyond punishing and poignant. The new cut, tentatively titled "Melanie," sounds like the Deftones pushing boundaries more. A futuristic chorus gave way to a jarring guitar riff, and as the music crushed and curled, Moreno's voice careened across the chaos.
"Knife Party" and "Passenger" played out like aural headtrips, while the salvo of "Root," "Nosebleed" and "7 Words" bubbled over with a cathartic rage. "Digital Bath" and "Be Quiet and Drive" slowly twisted and turned the crowd's emotions like a close-range stabbing. The audience screamed along with Moreno, and it was purely explosive. However, the true explosion came on "Headup." As Moreno screamed, "Walk into this world with your head up high," the pit turned into a war zone, and the kids didn't stop for even a final breath.
The crowd goes so wild because Deftones are more than just music. Each record's a sonic journey in and of itself. Then there's Chino. Moreno has become the MySpace generation's Morrissey. Unlike the dapper suits that Smiths' fanatics wear to emulate Morrissey, many kids in the Deftones' crowd—boys and girls—rocked Moreno's trademark skater socks, Dickies shorts and Chuck Taylors. The boys have the goatees going on, to boot. Moreno's crafted a visage that transcends the music, and the kids idolize him. After the show, the most heartwarming moment came as he stood by the dressing room's upstairs window and smiled down at the fans clamoring on the sidewalk. That was all many of them needed before the band's next masterpiece drops in 2009.