Sunday, 24 February 2013

Def, dumb and blinding. Deftones Live Review - Brixton Academy 2013

Deftones *****

Letlive *****
Three Trapped Tigers *****

Brixton Academy 20th February 2013

The night of the Brits. That hollow, onanistic, self-congratulatory jamboree attended by every parasitic, hanger-on, ligger and rictus-grinning plastic poseur in ‘the biz’.

But bollocks to all that. The Sauvignon Blanc, the coked-up kiddies, forced bonhomie and even falser schisms and rivalries are so far removed from chilly Brixton; where, tonight real rock and roll is marshaling its militant and revolutionary army at a convention of true believers in the company of Mr Moreno and his able generals and colonels.

Three Trapped Tigers *****

First to take to the conference platform are the bonkers and brilliant Brits Three Trapped Tigers. Theirs is a complicated and startling manifesto. Largely instrumental (with the occasional harmonic and almost operatic choral intervention), this is a technical, complex, tight as a coelacanth’s back passage, mesmerising and sensorially assaulting address which gets through to the very core of the assembled electorate.

Triggered drops and sub booms evacuate bowels and crush chests. The rally is led by astonishing tub thumper Adam Betts. His drumming is so passionate, powerful, jaw-dropping and heavier than weapons grade uranium. No one could hit the drums any harder. Or more accurately. 

Every hemi-demi-semi quaver and ghost beat are humanly quantised to within previously scientifically undiscovered tolerances. But never clinical or anodyne. Precision yes, but married with passion and playfulness. Think Animal from the Muppets with Popeye’s arms, John Bonham’s power, Gil Sharone’s outrĂ© groove and Jimmy Cobb’s touch. 

A rarity to have the drummer as the front man (although that’s unfair on his fellow troika members Tom Rogerson and Matt Calvert to push Betts too far up the party hierarchy, this is definitely a true collective and not just a drum cult of personality), everything they do is rhythmically driven. 

Massive techy, mathy, compound and complex beats and phrases drive this campaign bus. Ably aided and abetted by sub bass wobs and drones, sweeping synthscapes and gutsy an filigree-laden guitar cadenzas. With heaviness aplenty to satiate  and canvas the assembled rock-hungry community.

Throughout, Betts is in the F zone. Focussed. Frenzied. Full-on and fucking fantastic. Driving the whole performance from behind his skinned and tinned control centre. 

The voters seem to lap it up too. Although, with the exception of Betts’s over animated drum work-out (Christmas Fitness DVD opportunity Klaxon), the keyboard-based performance is inevitably reminiscent of Kraftwerk or Fripp and Eno; not quite shoe-gazing, but concentrated and restrained. Difficult to stage dive or hardcore dance while cracking out complex suspended chord progressions and wandering triads on a keyboard or noodling, tapping, sweeping and seducing a Telecaster fretboard.

The crowd were pretty much reduced to nodding heads, stroking beards and grinning appreciatively rather than bringing home the mosh. No matter, a truly captivating, spellbinding and brilliant start to tonight’s anti-Brits celebration. Can’t wait to see them again at the amazing ArcTanGent Festival in August.

Letlive *****
Next preaching and screaming from the hustings are LA post hardcore darlings Letlive. Fronted by the irrepressible firecracker Jason Aalon Butler, they storm straight into a wall of noise to try and animate the now pretty much full Academy.

Butler is like some sugar-rushed, amphetamined-up or superhyperactive dervish with a bag of really angry wasps stuffed in his pants relentlessly stinging at his nutsack. He runs, jumps, hardcore whirls, forward rolls, hops, somersaults and pulls triple salchows as he yells and screams into the cavernous Brixton space.

And that’s about it. Sadly. There’s definite energy and brio in the whole performance, but, whether or not it’s down to the legendarily shite sound sarf London’s most notable aircraft hangar, the band produce a wall of mud to back Butler’s tortured yelps and death screams.

There’s no subtlety. No killer tightness. No sharpness. Just a blunt and sludgy barrage of down-tuned, well, mush. Only briefly relenting for the slightly more sophisticated and nuanced Muther with its insouciant, disaffected nods to melody and harmony and the brilliant, catchy-as-herpes pop punky anthem Renegade 86. Which is a shame.

However, Butler himself doesn’t come out scot free. His screams and banshee wails become wearing when not punctuated by melody or hooks in too many of the songs on show. I’m fond of a damn good scream or yell; in the hands of the monumental Greg Puciato or Eva Spence, a bark, a shriek or a full-on diaphragm-ripping roar is a powerful surgical implement that can destroy and bewilder but simultaneously wring out emotion and awe. 

But tonight, Butler (again, maybe down to the sound) lacks that killer cut-through. And by the time his noise is stuck over the top of the muddy tsunami wave of the band, it’s all a bit disappointing. Think I need to see them again in a small, sweaty club with a killer sound system to get the full effect. The crowd remain largely ambivalent too, which further adds to the overall lack of excitement. As I say; a real shame.

Deftones *****

Right, let’s get the cult of personality bit out of the way up front. Chino is the coolest dude in the world. Fact. He’s the leader of the party. The face. The spokesman. Hell, the president. 

But let’s not forget the rest of his party. This is the coolest band in the world. Fact.

Everything about them oozes cool. Even the uncool bits - like Stephen Carpenter’s combat shorts - are cool. 

So, armed with some new messages from the latest stunning album Koi No Yokan, Moreno and his battlebus arrive in the capital to further spread the word.

One of the remarkable things about Deftones is their constant musical reinvention which doesn’t recode or mutate their DNA. From the early days of Adrenaline and Around The Fur, they’ve kept true to themselves (bar a little record company-forced slide into the morass of nu-metal) and despite well-documented spats, benders, differences of opinion, depression, booze , drugs and, er, tennis, there’s a consistent truth and an honesty in all of their work.

They’ve never relied upon bombast, pyro, Muse-esque animated backdrops, spaceships or gimmicks. They play hard. They play heavily. They play soulfully. They play beautifully. They just play.

And tonight’s no different. For all 20 songs, from the crushing opening of Diamond Eyes through to the bile-ridden and savage 7 Words, they just play. 

The set showcases five tracks off Koi No Yokan among old favourites culled from all of their albums  including Change, Engine No.9, My Own Summer and even Bloody Cape off Deftones and Riviere from the polarising Saturday Night Wrist. And the menu works splendidly.

The crowd are in a lively and loving mood, fanned by Moreno’s surprisingly garrulous, chirpy and chatty mood. Having seen Deftones on many occasions, I have never seen Chino so vocal. And he’s loving it. Swapping hats with the crowd. Yakking about apple juice and Top Man. In his own words, he just wants to talk about it. 

But it’s not the stuff between the songs that matters. Tonight’s show is a majestic collection of strong and subtle. Beauty and beast. Light and shade. Anger and ecstasy.

Every emotion is summoned up. Eyes are closed in reflective contemplation one moment. Arms are open and legs bouncing in febrile excitement the next. This is a masterclass. The perfect exhibition. An object lesson. 

To have survived all these years; survived each other; survived the business, survived the ups and downs shows a resilience and a strength second to none. And on tonight’s astonishing performance, that’s all you can describe this oh so cool band as: second to none.

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