Deftones

Despite being active for nigh on fifteen years now, Deftones have managed to defy the odds and are arguably still one of the coolest bands operating today, a fact even more surprising given that Deftones were one of the biggest bands to spawn from the nu-metal boom of the late nineties. With that particular scene now dismissed with the same kind of withering disdain normally reserved for prime-era cock rock, it’s testament to the Deftones’ ongoing musical development and unwillingness to rest on their laurels that has thus far avoided them joining the likes of Ultraspank and Hed(pe) in the ‘where-are-they-now’ file.

Coheed & Cambria

Whilst their first album, ‘Adrenaline’, was released in the shadow of Korn’s genre-shaping debut, they chose not to dwell in the black-as-pitch confessionals and gothic darkness that underpinned their Bakersfield buddies’ material, instead taking the down-tuned, hip-hop influenced rhythms of the nascent nu-metal sound and welding it to a 90’s post-hardcore chassis, with a stoned, stream-of-consciousness lyrical approach.

Coheed & Cambria

By the time its follow-up, ‘Around the Fur’ appeared, they had added the likes of Slint, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure to their list of influences, a considered and expansive move that saw them immediately break from the pack, allowing their future output to be judged on their own merits and away from the confines of such a particularly one-dimensional scene.

Deftones

And so, thirteen years on from when this particular hack witnessed their debut UK gig at Wulfrun hall, they were back in the Midlands, with over a decades worth of material and a storied history of lofty triumph and heart-rending tragedies to draw from. Taking to the stage in front of a packed house, having been successfully warmed by new-prog mainstays Coheed & Cambria, they immediately kick things off with ‘Rocket Skates’ from their latest ‘Diamond Eyes’ opus, with the hugely excitable crowd roaring along with the “guns, razors, knives” hookline.

Deftones

From then on the quintet take us on a journey throughout their impressive back catalogue with a setlist divided into album-specific chunks for the most part; with the title track, ‘My Own Summer’, ‘Lotion’ and ‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)’ following in rapid succession, all drawn from ‘Around the Fur’.

Deftones

Vocalist Chino Moreno had lost little of the energy he displayed so often throughout his career, although there were no 1997-esque leaps from the PA stack this time around. Instead, he frantically paced the large Academy stage, singing in the faces of the superfans crushed against the barrier, leaping through the air and belting out his signature whisper-to-a-scream vocal style. With the sheer amount of energy expended onstage it wasn’t surprising to see Moreno peel off his shirt, and it was glaringly obvious that his documented dalliance with the pies is long behind him as evidenced by the deafening shrieks courtesy of the female contingent.

Deftones

He was backed up by the industrious Abe Cunningham, cementing his position as a truly world-class drummer, with nary a beat dropped or misplaced throughout the set. Ice-cold DJ Frank Delgado was ensconced within his bunker of samplers and turntables, whilst super-cool / super-stoned guitarist Stephen Carpenter simply hasn’t changed – still tearing his chunky riffs from out of his gaudily-coloured ESP with long hair obscuring his features.

Deftones

The most noticeable change was the appearance of ex-Quicksand member Sergio Vega on bass, a tangibly bittersweet affair given that he is performing as a stand-in whilst longtime bassist and friend Chi Cheng continues to remain in a coma suffered as a result of a car accident almost three years ago. Despite the nagging tragedy of his situation he put in a sterling performance, and the myriad shared influences of both Quicksand and Deftones maintained the notion that they’ve really snared the right man for a task so tinged by sadness.

Deftones

‘Feiticeira’ heralded a run of tracks from their third record, ‘White Pony’, arguably still their masterwork where their aggressive urbanised metal coalesced perfectly with Delgado’s transcendal washes of electronica, with ‘Digital Bath’ a prime example, captivating the audience with its dramatic, slowbuilt melody. The heart of the set was pulled from ‘Diamond Eyes’, with the title track exhibiting exactly why most are declaring it to be their best effort since ‘White Pony’ after the relative misfires of their self-titled fourth album and its follow-up ‘Saturday Night Wrist’ (indeed, only the sublime ‘Minerva’ and ‘Hole in the Earth’ were pulled from those albums, suggesting that the band themselves agree with this statement). Boasting arguably Deftones’ heaviest ever riff – with massive nods to Meshuggah – as well as some of their most affecting hooks, the track surely had a lot to do with the rave reviews and enthusiastic reception for the album.

Deftones

The gentle chimes of ‘Beauty School’ further cemented their firm grasp of exquisite tunefulness whilst the off-kilter swing of ‘You’ve Seen the Butcher’ was a highlight of the set and a reminder that they can still press all the correct rocking buttons to great effect. Returning back to ‘White Pony’ for the closing three-song stretch, the rarely-aired ‘Back to School’ triggered a seismic reaction throughout the Academy, and ‘The Passenger’ was gripping, dramatic and lost little impact without the guest vocals of Tool’s Maynard James Keenan as on the recorded version – in fairness, Moreno did a fantastic job of aping Keenans signature vocal style. The set proper finished with ‘Change (In the House of Flies)’ before they returned for the encore, again, very album-centric as we were treated to ‘Birthmark’, the feral ‘Engine No. 9’ and the timeless ‘7 Words’, all taken from the debut album.

Deftones

As a massive fan of the Deftones from the early days, the encore was fantastic from a nostalgia point of view but the overriding feeling after the show was one of looking forward. I was guilty of writing the band off as a spent force after the two sub-par followups to ‘White Pony’, but with a new album as potent as ‘Diamond Eyes’, and having experienced this show – nothing more than a riotous return to form – I’m not embarrassed to admit I was wrong in the face of a comeback that would shame Lazarus himself.

Gig Review by Duncan Wilkins
Live Gig Photography by Gobinder Jhitta

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