Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Deftones @ Manchester Academy, 18/02/13

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Deftones’ White Pony provided a real watershed moment for the late 90s metal set. With its ethereal atmospherics meets hardcore bombast dynamic the band truly demonstrated that they were misplaced in the nu-metal boom. It’s just a shame that such a classic work has been used as a benchmark against which each of their preceding albums has been judged and in turn almost unanimously deemed to come up short. It’s only when treated to a set spanning their body of work that you can appreciate how well older material stands up to the test of time, and how the last 13 years’ worth of their output has succeeded on so many levels in remoulding their masterwork’s template.

Three Trapped Tigers are undoubtedly a musician’s dream and a soundman’s nightmare, given their complex set up of various synths and effects and the virtuosic intricacy of each bandmembers’ parts. So it’s perhaps forgivable that some things are slightly off at the beginning of their set. Particularly noticeable is the volume of their sparse wordless vocals, which should be the icing upon the cake but are instead brought jarringly to the fore. Such wrongs are righted quickly however and by midset those gathered early are hypnotised by the Tigers’ brand of otherworldly math-psychedelia and their most ascendant passages are mesmerising. Their ambitious soundscapes are well suited to the massive PA in the Academy, even though they are well and truly humbled to be here on this tour, gracing ‘the biggest stages [they] have ever played on’. A number of jaws almost audibly drop when it comes round to the noodling guitars and synths and unorthodox percussion of ‘Cramm’, which not only provides a showcase of the sheer (apparently effortless) ability of all three members, but also their hookiest melodies which get heads nodding in unison. Undoubtedly a few of those entranced this evening have been seduced into coming back for more.

By contrast, the more traditionally arresting post-hardcore riot of letlive. seems pretty pedestrian, musically speaking. While their assault is pleasingly angular and hammered out with a great deal of enthusiasm, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it has all been done before, the most clear comparison point being Glassjaw, which really is a tough act to follow. What they lack in originality however, they more than make up in showmanship thanks to frontman Jason Butler’s seemingly boundless energy. While the sort of intense show they put on usually works best when penetrating your personal space in a pokey sweatbox, they deserve credit for managing to uphold the spectacle in a much bigger setting. At one point, insanely enough, Butler even pulls off an incredibly impressive mid-song front-flip. Unfortunately the energy drops in the middle of the set as they deliver a straight-out-of-2004 ballad reminiscent of The Used and their ilk, but is thankfully restored in time for Butler to pull off the obligatory ‘punk band in a big venue’ move of the stage dive over the barrier. 

By the time they’ve left the stage, the atmosphere is thick with expectation. For the first time in the evening, once the capacity crowd filters fully into the room, movement becomes a shuffle and is no longer voluntary by the time Chino Moreno and Co hit the stage with ‘Diamond Eyes’. From the opener it’s clear that the band are on form and they really feed off the devotion of the crowd, the core demographic of which has clearly grown up with their music. Their enthusiasm is rewarded by a nice early one-two punch of the classics ‘Be Quiet and Drive’ and ‘My Own Summer’, which really whips the room into a frenzy. If anything, we can be thankful that we’re calmed down when they peg it back, with the monolithic churn of ‘Rosemary’ from the recently released Koi No Yokan.

One of the bigger surprises in the set comes with the inclusion of a powerful rendition of White Pony’s ‘Passenger’, which works surprisingly well with Chino alone as opposed to its usual interplay with Tool’s Maynard James Keenan. Paired with the hypnotic swirl of ‘Entombed’, with its tapped guitars and Chino’s soaring vocal, the rapturous response confirms this as the most majestic segment of the evening. From here on in, they don’t quite sustain this peak, which is perhaps understandable, and the set does drag at points towards its close. The mass singalong to perennial favourite ‘Change (In the House of Flies)’ does however provide another welcome lift.
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The level of energy and enthusiasm the band play with is what we’d expect of a group of teen upstarts, and when they bound back onto the stage for an encore comprised entirely of cuts from debut Adrenaline, it is hard to believe that such songs are nearing 20 years of age. It’s apparent that despite all they’ve been through, with the tragic car crash in 2008 from which permanent bassist Chi Cheng is still recovering, Deftones show no signs of letting up. While they may never produce another epochal masterwork, their output is always high-calibre, their shows vibrant, and they have retained hero status where their peers have trawled the depths of mediocrity. For this we should be thankful.

Check out Deftones @, letlive. @ and Three Trapped Tigers @

Photographs by Jason Broadhurst