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Deftones Live @ The Palace, Melbourne, Australia

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I recall telling someone many years ago that I was just getting into Deftones and they informed me how terrible they were live. Chino Moreno’s vocals in particular. 2010 rolls around and they release one of the most acclaimed metal albums of that year with an equally as successful touring cycle.

After being absolutely floored by their performance at the Palace Theatre on the Australian Diamond Eyes tour in 2011, I was quick to notice the amount of people that remarked that it was the best form they had ever seen them in.

So what happened? They ditched the drugs. Take note kids. While many other bands of the so called Nu Metal era are struggling to move tickets, (by the way if you think they’re still Nu Metal, you should probably check out more of their material and fix that), Deftones have been creating the most unique and powerful heavy music out of any of their contemporaries and with great success.

In similar fashion to their previous tour, they opened with a DJ/Rapper act, Hyro Da Hero. Hyro was very much aware of what he was dealing with and played off the audience’s disinterest with some slightly amusing banter. There was certainly nothing wrong with his dark take on electro hip hop but if his set went beyond his allocated 20 minutes, he was definitely in danger of testing the crowd’s patience.

Second cab off the rank was LA hardcore/metal/punk rock act Letlive. Moreno would surely have a lot to live up to after this. Front man Jason Aalon Butler single handedly managed to transcend the poor mix that is typically afflicted upon support acts and command the attention of the rapidly filling attendance at the Palace Theatre with his manic, high octane stage presence. Stage antics (which included an impressive jump off a PA stack) aside, I have to come back to the poor mix because even though I could hear they were producing the sound of emotionally charged but well executed post hardcore, from watching the hands of the guitarists I could see there was a lot of technical intricacy that I was missing out on. I can safely say they won a lot of fans on this tour.

So if you’ve looked at your Facebook newsfeed over the past 48 hours, you already have a good idea of how the rest of the night panned out. What can you say about a band that has established themselves as one of the premier live metal acts of the past three years?

I recall last year they warmed themselves into the show by playing the first half in chronological order of song release. Not this time. Bursting on stage with the rabble rousing Rocket Skates, front man Chino Moreno filled the room with his exuberant charisma, quickly reminding me and anyone else in the room why he’d never have to worry about competing with the likes of Letlive’s Butler.

He greeted the now-at-capacity venue with a genuine smile that looked like he’d just been reacquainted with an old friend. Similar expressions of joy and enthusiasm were exchanged between the band members and with the audience, as if they were just playing their first show.

At a Deftones show one has to note how goddamn hard Abe Cunningham hits those drums. Now imagine this not letting up for all two hours of their flawless set. Impressive stamina aside, his control over the push and pull of the tempos in the songs was effective in controlling the energy of the crowd. Moreno might be the man up front, but Cunningham is most certainly the conductor behind the curtain.

The set list was a competently crafted work of ebb and flow, with a good mix between old and new across all seven of their albums. The most noteworthy thing being that the biggest reactions came from their newer material, as opposed to the typical outburst generated by ‘that single’. Could it be their fortune has been the result of generating a new fan base as opposed to reinvigorating an old one? That could quite possibly be the case as I noticed the mixed demographic consisted of people mostly in their early to mid 20s.

Poltergeist proved itself to be the highlight of the show. Being one of the more frantic tracks off their latest album Koi No Yokan, the floor erupted after being placated with the groove laden hit Digital Bath. Melbourne’s ability to clap in odd time is worthy of both mention and applause (pun intended).

Their two-song encore consisted of first album staples Engine No.9 and 7 words. Despite a healthy reaction, it reinforced my thoughts on people connecting more to their newer material. No doubt a refreshing concept for a band that has been around for over 20 years.

Their selling out of both nights at the Palace came of no surprise and I won’t be any more or less surprised if they do likewise on their return.

(17/05/13)

Photos By Nelli Scarlet

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