Nothing Else, but to Throw Your Body at the Cement
I. September 21, 2010 – Northern Lights – Clifton Park, New York
______The band successfully survived the late 90s “nu-metal” blizzard more gracefully than any other act from the era. Limp Bizkit returned, unable to fill seats; System of a Down went on a hiatus to fulfill crummy side projects; Korn just garbles out another record whenever someone leaves the band, and Orgy? Static-X? Godsmack? Deftones have moved beyond all that noise to establish themselves as a long standing rock band, unafraid to break the unforgiving boundaries set in metal music. They’ve thrown melody, synthesizer and drum machines into their own mix of thrashing punk and chunky guitar drone in ways other bands would fail miserably at. They do not give up and their fan base forever loves them for it. Since the release of Diamond Eyes last May, the Deftones, as they’re known to do, have been touring incessantly.
______The show, in the town of Clifton Park, was a one-off from their current national tour with Alice in Chains and Mastodon. I was shocked to pull up to, what looked like, an abandoned shopping center. Nothing else was around except a place called Hair Zen and a Stewart’s convenience store, where I slammed a Red Bull and watched evil black airplanes make their descend.
______Behind the bushes of a Kingercare I smoked a joint that burned straight down the middle, brushed the dust off my pants and got in line. An anxious fan behind me said to his girlfriend, “I want to get so close; so close I can feel it in my heart.” When I turned around a big grin was forming on his face and my mouth formed the same.
______Northern Lights has two bars. One giant square bar in the middle was a barrier for out-of-control mosh-pits. Another, to the side, catered to a set of tables underneath a giant screen flashing the night’s performance. I moved in through the smoke to the front, two people back from the railing. The excitement seeped while the minutes passed.
______The opener was New York’s own Selfish Needy Creatures. The whole time they played I only tried to get a glimpse of what appeared to be a tattoo of the World Trade Towers on the singer’s left shoulder. After a near twenty-five minute set they walked off to mild applause. A flash of stringman Stephen Carpenter, moving from truck to truck, through glass doors, pounded me with anxiety. Someone came from the back placing the microphone on a neatly-folded white towel. After some Snoop Dogg song ended, the lights dropped and cheers rose from the billowing crowd. Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and DJ Frank Delgado filled up the dark background and Vega, with Chino Moreno, calmly filled up the foreground. Their silhouettes were fragmented by purple lights shooting out. The time had finally arrived. The energy was ready to glide.
______Skipping introductions, they launched into “Headup.” Naturally everyone surged forward like a pack of hungry tigers after a bloody red steak. I was only a few feet from Moreno shooting my arms up and out. The second song, “Engine No. 9,” fed right into the quick bass-snare pop of, “My Own Summer (Shove It).” The blistering trio of staple songs made it feel like they’d been at it for an hour.
______After the quick lift-off Moreno needed a breath. His long-sleeved plaid shirt was drenched. He claimed someone put cocaine on his microphone, sniffing and brushing his nose off, between huffs and puffs. The rest of the band just smiled. Of course we all wanted some and just laughed at the joke as they conveniently shot into “Nosebleed.”
______Moreno fastened his feet to the railing for one of the cooler things I’ve witnessed in live music. Lifted up by arms, he hung right above the crowd looking out with a boyish gleam of total destruction. A slight smile in the silence before the spastic thrash of “Elite.” Clutching the microphone tightly, he curled in, jack-knifing head first into the mob at the first scream, “When you’re ripe!” Heads blasting together. “You’ll bleed outta control!” He was in full form, hanging from the monitors and throwing himself into the music. The band was dead on with every note and successfully revived their energy after what has been a tumultuous couple of years. Something from every album was played, including the often forgotten “Hole in the Earth,” from Saturday Night Wrist. Surprisingly, they didn't touch the new songs until the last third of the set.
______Their first stab at the new record was the mellow drop-off of “Sextape.” The hushed song gave the band and the crowd some breathing room, but not much because it came sandwiched between two burning cuts off Adrenaline, “Birthmark” and “Root.” Then four new songs, “Royal,” “You’ve Seen the Butcher,” “Prince,” and the hammering, “Diamond Eyes,” rumbled through. When they left the stage all you could hear was the panting crowd. If you keep listening you can hear it for miles.
______The encore was a nice taste, a quick retrospective of Deftones’ catalogue thus far. “Rocket Skates” bleated up against the walls and transitioned beautifully into “Around the Fur.” They finished with their biggest single, “Change (In the House of Flies).” As Cunningham rolled and splashed through the ending, Delgado slammed his laptop shut and turned into the dark.
______They left quickly returning for one last gunshot to the face with classic closer, “7 Words.” By the end my white button-down shirt was transparent with sweat as I plunged through the meat-grinder home.
II. September 22, 2010 -- Agganis Arena -- Boston, Massachusetts
______The following night the band crossed state lines to join Alice in Chains and Mastodon for the Black Diamond Skye tour stop at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The morning before the band canceled an in-store signing at the city’s Newbury Comics “due to sickness.” Whatever that sickness was, it was not noticeable come nightfall.
______They startled the audience settling in with six dollar beers erupting into the punishing “Diamond Eyes.” Moreno reached toward the sky with each bomb dropped by Carpenter. The set relied heavily on new material and old classics. Their electric blue and fiery orange light polished the audience. A disco ball dropped for “Sextape,” shooting beams of purple light to the top seats. Moreno bounced all over the place, knees up, running in circles like a demon child. Deftones enjoyed their time on the stage.
______The only difference from the show at Northern Lights was the new song, “Risk,” which Moreno dedicated to Cheng. The song held onto a new gloomy meaning with Moreno promising, “I will save your life. I will find away,” from the monitors. Unfortunately, a giant moat of security personnel between him and the audience, sopped up any possible interaction. It was satisfying to see them on the big stage, but I yearned to be up front, close and personal. It’s difficult to get into any performance, much less a metal performance, while sitting in cushioned seats. This, however, is the beauty of Deftones. No matter where you’re at; whether it’s drowning in the mosh pit; smoking joints in the lawn, or holed up on the balcony; the music still pumps into your blood. The energy is always there. You can still feel it in your heart.