DEFTONES – ACL LIVE – (SHOW REVIEW)
Staying power is a rare commodity found in bands today, but its something that Sacramento-based alt-metal band, the Deftones, have unequivocally proven they still possess. The band is still reeling from having replaced bassist Chi Cheng in 2009 after an auto accident, and went on hiatus while lead singer, Chino Moreno, pursued a witch-house influenced side project called, Crosses. On tour for their seventh studio album, Koi No Yokan, the Deftones have consistently been one of the most unique and electrifying live acts for almost 25 years now, and Friday night’s show at ACL Live in the Moody Theater would be no deviation from their usual epic showcase.
Going to concerts at ACL Live, I’m always skeptical of the crowd. Austin crowds can be fairly static to begin with, but with pricey $40 tickets and no real pit area in ACL Live, it isn’t exactly metal friendly. Since it’s the crowd’s primal energy that fuels most Deftones shows, I began to think this show might be at risk of losing its visceral vibe if the crowd became aloof. Luckily, Chino Moreno isn’t the type of frontman to let his environment dictate the potency of his band’s performance.
Looking a few shades short of sharp, Chino was few pounds heavier since I saw the Deftones play last year, and sporting a Joy Division shirt that wasn’t exactly ‘hardcore’. Yet it is exactly this fusion of emo qualities with hard metal that is the appeal of the Deftones. Their music has the ability to appease metal head’s appetite for adrenalined, home-wrecking riffs and double bass drum while simultaneously opening themselves up for raw, emotional, and tortured songs that appeal to a more emo crowd. Labeled as alternative metal, the Deftones have a niche spot in the metal scene that has set them apart from every other major act today.
I first came across the Deftones in 8th grade, when my friend Trey introduced me to the seminal album, White Pony, from which we would go home to my house and cover songs like “Bored” and “Seven Words”, playing with as much vitriol and musical precision as we could muster as 14-year olds. Rebelling against our boring, suburban, buttoned-up private school lives by playing those raw and unhinged songs was a way for us to channel our angsty, white-boy, aggression. So when the Deftones began to play songs off of early records likeAdrenaline and Around the Fur – my 8th grade-self began to get excited in his undersized Pac Sun shirt and little ‘Soaps’ shoes – knowing this set list would definitely be a crowd-pleaser.
Roaring through hits like “Be Quiet and Drive” and “My Own Summer” early on in their set, the Deftones grabbed the hearts of the crowd and never loosened their grip. The highlight of the set came in the lusty and sanguine “I’ve Seen the Butcher”, where Moreno’s acerbic grumblings suddenly erupt into soaring vocals with crashing guitars and drums, evoking what might be the sexiest metal song ever written.
As one of my favorite drummers of all time, seeing Abe Cunningham “smack the tubs” as he calls it, is a show unto itself. Throttling through fan favorites such as “Sextape”, “Headup”, and “Around the Fur”, the sheer power coming out of each band member’s instrument was skull-shaking and the Austin crowd succeeded in not embarrassing itself, as at least a couple of mosh pits formed, although nowhere near the magnitude or ruthlessness that you might witness at a San Antonio or Houston show.
Chino and crew finished their set with “Change” and “Bloody Cape”, but they were only softening up the crowd for the wrecking ball of an encore that was up next. The next four songs – “Root”, “Bored”, “Engine No. 9”, and “7 Words” – became a maelstrom of pulsing metal that set the crowd into a testosteroned rage that swirled into a giant mosh circle absorbing everything in its path, including me. As the lights finally came up, I emerged sweaty, with a torn shirt, but completely and utterly content that the 14-year old rebel could enjoy this show as much as the same guy there to review it.