Vocalist Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter of Deftones. Photo by me.
I’m extremely blessed to have gotten a chance to see my favorite band a second time – on a Friday in a nearby city, no less. I’m very much aware how unusual it is to get consistently excellent metal shows to come through or near your hometown, and after Deftones, I get to see Killswitch Engage this week and Opeth and Gojira (Both on Fridays!) in October. I am one lucky metalhead. Deftones dropped a new album in April – that would be Gore – and of course, that means lots of touring. I spent a great deal of late spring and early summer excessively checking their tour dates for any Northern California shows, until they finally announced one: Aug. 26 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
I had previously seen Florence and the Machine at the Greek and I got to see Alabama Shakes there in early August. At this point, it’s easily my favorite outdoor venue (sorry, Shoreline). This time around, I showed up nice and early and scoped out a spot reasonably close to the stage at about 7 pm. I had previously eaten dinner and done some pregaming at Townie, so I had no intention of waiting in the booze or merch lines, which can sometimes take up to half an hour. Around 20 or so minutes of sitting and socializing with my neighbors followed before the first act came on.
The opening act was an electronic duo formerly known as Sister Crayon but who are now going by the moniker Rituals of Mine. With extremely rare exceptions, electronic music really isn’t my thing; I would never be caught dead at a place like EDC and Dubstep didn’t die off nearly fast enough for my liking. That being said, Rituals of Mine wasn’t half bad. Vocalist Terra Lopez has a lovely voice that doesn’t get drown out by all of the electronics and she’s an engaging performer. They were an interesting, if unconventional, opener for Deftones.
The second act was the one I was really worried about. Not that I was concerned I’d have a bad time that night; Deftones rocked when I saw them with Incubus last summer and I fully expected that to be the case here. It was just the prospect of having to endure some truly awful music before getting to the main course that made me feel queasy. Rapper Yelawolf was every bit as dreadful as I feared. I don’t know nearly enough about rap to make a quality judgment on this dude’s flow, but every single thing about him was excruciating. His clothes, his tattoos, his lyrics, his impromptu cover of Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” and the stuff he said in between songs was all cringe-inducing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a musical act in a live setting as terrible as Yelawolf. I tried so damn hard to give him a chance and enjoy myself but I just couldn’t. The kindest thing I could say about Yelawolf was that he gave me a chance to take a bathroom break and drink some much needed water.
Once that ordeal was mercifully over, it was time for Deftones. Obviously, I’m already super excited to watch my favorite artist perform again, but the prospect of them washing the taste of Yelawolf’s bullshit out was a nice bonus. After a sound check that was almost too long, the lights dimmed and the fog machines came on and out stepped Deftones. They carved right into the set with “Rocket Skates,” which always induces violent head banging; it didn’t take long for the mosh pit to commence. I haven’t been in a pit since I saw Amon Amarth back in May and it felt so damn good to slam into some people again.
Deftones’ setlist was diverse; from Gore, they played “Geometric Headdress,” the title track and “(L)MIRL,” but not not any of the big singles (“Prayers/Triangles,” “Doomed User,” and “Hearts/Wires”). They played material from every album except for their self-titled record and they peppered in some rarer tracks like “Rickets,” “Kimdracula,” and “Prince,” which Chino appropriately dedicated to the memory of Prince Rogers Nelson. I was absolutely stunned and delighted when they pulled out “Rosemary,” the near seven minute long, proggy masterpiece featured on Koi No Yokan that ends with one of Stephen Carpenter’s crunchiest guitar riffs.
Chino was in excellent form all evening. While his vocals were a bit low in the mix at first he was coming through loud and clear towards the end of their set. His singing, screams, wails and even those “Dr Alan Grant tries to impersonate a velociraptor” noises he’s sometimes known for all sounded great. Everyone else in the band killed it too: Stef was making pure magic, bassist Sergio Vega (clad in a Venom t-shirt and cornrows, of all combinations) held down the low end in style and drummer Abe Cunningham was crushing his kit all night. The standout of the show, however, was Frank Delgado. Easily the most overlooked Deftones member (what kid interested in music says “I want to play the keyboards one day!?”), Delgado’s keys and samples really pop out in a live setting. That dude knows how to create atmosphere.
Granted, at every concert I’ve been to – without exception – there comes I time when I just start to feel over it and I hope it ends soon so I don’t have to go home early and feel like a loser. I figure this is due to fact that I’m getting older. That Yelawolf’s horrendous set induced a “Got off my lawn!” reaction from me certainly didn’t help matters. Plus, an hour of continuous moshing takes a lot out of you. Deftones wound down their set with “Knife Prty,” “Change (In the House of Flies),” and “Passenger,” before launching into an extended encore consisting of fan favorite cuts “My Own Summer (Shove It),” “Headup,” “Bored,” and “Engine No. 9.” The timing was perfect; I was absolutely ready to begin the long trek back to my hotel. “Purple Rain” was pumped through the speakers as the crowd at the Greek began to file out. It was quite lovely.
Thanks, Deftones, for yet another incredible show. And for God’s sake, if you absolutely have to get a rapper to open for you, get Run the Jewels.