The Mars Volta - Bren Events Center, Irvine
Thu, 31 Jan 2008 10:53:51
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"Once a punk rocker, always a punk rocker" is a fitting adage for The Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala, whose banshee-voice cemented At the Drive-In's place in the punk pantheon. At one point during The Mars Volta's two-hour plus set at the Bren Events Center at UC Irvine, Cedric scurried up the arena stairs and into the packed crowd. He grabbed a seating sign and carried it back to the stage, placing it on top of the amp stack. He then bolted up the stairs on the other side of the arena and came back with a huge winter jacket from the crowd. He retreated to the middle of the stage, dancing frantically with the jacket on and then throwing it into the crowd. In true punk fashion, he dove into the audience, climbed onto the amps and drew every eye in the house his way. While he was channeling Sid Vicious, his At the Drive-In cohort and guitar wizard Omar Rodriguez-Lopez shredded out prog mayhem like a wiry, Mexican Jimi Hendrix, writhing and jamming insanely.
Live, the Mars Volta resemble a sonic freight train: ready to derail at any second. However, that's the best part of their show. The Mars Volta know how to put on a rock show better than any of their contemporaries. Cedric screams with a primal power that evokes Robert Plant and Geddy Lee all at once. He dances on top of the riser, holds arms outstretched and swings the microphone. More importantly, he nails every note, while maintaining this atmospheric energy. His longtime partner-in-crime, Omar, remains equally entrancing. His jazz-via-heavy metal riffs segue into pure prog madness during long solos, but it's the perfect soundtrack for any wannabe-spacemen in the crowd looking to take a trip.
The fans ate up every second of the show. The arena was packed with students and OC locals, but they did prove a little too rowdy at points for Cedric's taste. In the midst of one hazy guitar echo, some fans were thrown over the railing while crowd surfing. So Cedric chimed in with a smirk, "Don't be throwing people up here! Save that shit for the Warped Tour." The comment was delivered with aplomb in the face of some OC hecklers.
With creepy backdrops inspired by their latest release The Bedlam in Goliath, the band set the stage for a complete aural journey. The first backdrop featured a naked woman attached to a snake in front of the desert—a brooding piece worth thought. Then at one point, the backdrops shifted, and a strange tunnel with various symbols took the focal point. Add to this a crazy light show, with a giant spinning lantern in the middle of the stage, and the hammer of gods swung all night.
After a Spaghetti-Western style intro, the band ripped through an incendiary live rendition of "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)" from their much-lauded debut De-Loused in the Comatorium. Some extended ethereal jamming on "Viscera Eyes" and "Wax Simulacra" followed that. The cuts from the band's phenomenal The Bedlam In Goliath proved just as fiery as the usual favorites. "Goliath" and "Conjugal Burns" ignited the entire arena floor, while "Ileyna" prompted much singing. Of course, "Cygnus" allowed for even crazier jamming and faster pink strobe lights, as everything clicked. As "Aberinkula" came to a close, the band had achieved the perfect concoction of prog-noodling, space metal, punk theatrics and epic classic rock bombast. You don't get to see that on Warped Tour.