Concert Reviews

Last Night: The Deftones' "Secret" CD Release Performance at Trees

The Deftones
May 4, 2010

Better than: 
..any abbreviated, afternoon mini-set at a festival concert, for damn sure.

The Deftones took to Trees last night for an eleventh-hour-announced, quickly-sold-out concert, and delivered a boastful, deafening, 21-song set to an expanse of shoulder-to-shoulder bodies.

They were pressed against every wall, and lined along every inch of the stairways.

You see, the Deftones graciously chose Dallas as the stop to celebrate the release of their new CD, Diamond Eyes, with an early evening, more-exclusive fan affair. There was a Q&A webcast, moderated by KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's Jessie Jessup, followed by a front-to-back live performance of the entire new CD.

So really, why not play an additional special show that night in an intimate venue?

Hell, they were already there.

Diamond Eyes, assembled from scratch not long after the hospitalization of bassist Chi Cheng in late '08 (Cheng was a serious car accident and remains traumatized), was a relatively spontaneous creation.

Before Cheng's injury, the band was nearing completion on a CD titled Eros, and, in a decision they claim unrelated to the band's subsequent downtime from this, they decided to indefinitely shelve Eros, sub-out Cheng with former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega, and start work on an entirely new effort.

While Eros is reported to be quite abrasive and atmospheric, Diamond Eyes seems to be more of a sexy, melodic affair--not all that dissimilar to 2000's White Pony.

Back to the show: Opening with rumbling, eerie synth, and a massive crowd roar, the Deftones dispatched their new title track as crooner Chino Moreno, at least at first, appeared in a sweater vest and a pink, starch-collared dress shirt.

But this show wasn't about fashion, fluff, or even hype. There wasn't a lot of between-song banter or crowd-pumping. This show was about two main things: intense volume and undeniably-dark, artfully-crafted hard rock.

The first half of the set was predominantly new songs (sending some fans to the merch table to reference the new CD's track listing), and tracks from 2000's White Pony. Temp-bassist Sergio Vega stood stage left, and faced his microphone right, and downstage, alternating background harmonies and raw, screaming vocal-answers to Moreno's lyrics. Drummer Abe Cunningham, as usual, cracked out rhythms with snap-tight precision. Most notable, though, was guitarist Stephen Carpenters' concrete position at stage right, with a smoldering cigarette constantly poised atop his Marshall cabinets. He's a man so hairy from the neck up, that between his beard and his black, Cousin It-length mane, you could hardly see his face.

The second half of the set, more rich with variety, only swelled in ferocity, and in swirling, sweaty energy on the floor.

Moreno, looking much more fit than in recent years, set a loose, cheerful pace, even stopping to order Jagermesiter shots for most of the band, and checking to make sure the crowd wasn't tired yet. He sure wasn't.

"I gotta laugh. I'm havin a great fuckin time," he quipped in the show's home stretch, as the band launched into "Beauty School" (a more gracefully-crafted new song), led a massive crowd singalong during "Shutup and Drive" and saw Moreno himself strumming the opening chords to "Change (In the House of Flies)."

For the encore, Carpenter didn't bother with the formalities of leaving the stage and coming back, possibly trapped out there by all his equipment.

All in all, though, it was a historic night (and a real treat) for Deftones' fans. Not to mention a return to more fine, traditional form for Trees' ongoing history pages.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: The Deftones are my personal, all-time favorite rock band. That being said, while the event was historic, the quality of the performance varied. Moreno's voice wavered occasionally into flat territories, at least in the first half of the show. Excusable, considering the long day of performing they had. Overall, it was a well-delivered set, though.

Set List:
diamond eyes
rocket skates
knife prty
youve seen the butcher

vs. boys
beauty school

up and drive
around the fur
my own summer
back 2 school
change (in the house of flies)
hexagram engine no. 9


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Alan Ayo