Coheed and Cambria / Baroness
Wednesday, May 21st, 2008
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
This one was a pretty strange—but welcome—pairing of bands. Baroness’ Neurosis-inspired post-hardcore/sludge just didn’t seem to be in the same neighbourhood with Coheed and Cambria’s concept-driven, progressive emo-rock but that didn’t stop six hundred people from filling The Commodore Ballroom on a rainy Wednesday night to witness the event. Baroness’ RED ALBUM topped Decibel Magazine’s 2007 best-album list and Coheed and Cambria’s latest, NO WORLD FOR TOMORROW, is another in a string of successful releases for the New York-based rockers, so the hipsters and college students were out in full force for bragging rights at seeing these bands on a smaller club stage before they graduate to larger venues.
Baroness’ feedback-driven, unassuming entrance to the stage with “Rays on Pinion” was met with a solid response from the crowd but once John Baizley’s throaty roars took over, most of the audience stood mystified and confused, unsure of what to make of the lengthy jams that filled out the band’s 45-minute set. Bassist Summer Welch and drummer Allen Blickle contribute a beefy rhythm section to combat the distortion-heavy guitars of Baizley and Brian Blickle that should have sent bongs blazing. Blickle’s fuzzed-out riffs were chock full of Southern grooves (the band hails from Savannah, Georgia) giving songs like “Red Sky” a propulsive kick, while the ungodly heaviness of “Grad” absolutely slayed everything in its path to finish the set. Baroness played Vancouver several months ago with High On Fire which seems like a much better fit, but there were certainly a few fans on hand to welcome them back.
Rays On Pinion
Coheed and Cambria have made a career out of defying the norm. Named after the two fictional characters that populate the intricate storyline of vocalist/guitarist Claudio Sanchez’s ongoing lyrical concept that acts as the soundtrack to his science-fiction comics, THE AMORY WARS, the band’s indie-rock cred shares space with the major-label exposure that 2005’s GOOD APOLLO, I’M BURNING STAR, VOL. IV: FROM FEAR THROUGH THE EYES OF MADNESS garnered with the massive single, “Welcome Home.” The puffy-haired frontman (think The Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne but on a grander scale) has an extremely versatile voice with an upper range that often draws comparisons to Geddy Lee of Rush and Coheed’s music is no less intricate and involved lyrically than the prog legends most ambitious mid- to late-seventies epics. A spartan stage setup with new drummer Chris Pennie (ex-Dillinger Escape Plan), touring keyboardist Wes Styles and a pair of lovely female backing vocalists (Kelly Fauth and Halina Larsson) left Sanchez, bassist Michael Todd and guitarist Travis Stever free to speak through the music and an enthusiastic crowd loved every minute. Of the new songs played, “Feathers” is an impossibly catchy track filled with pop-worthy vocal hooks and “The Running Free” follows a similar path with a great chorus. “Blood Red Summer,” complete with lots of “whoa oh oh” from Fauth and Larsson, and “A Favor House Atlantic” gave the crowd a taste of the band’s earlier material which received just as much fanfare as the NO WORLD FOR TOMORROW tracks. Even the title track from 2003’s IN KEEPING SECRETS OF SILENT EARTH, a dark, progressive song with monster riffs was welcomed openly. A few moments of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” hidden in the middle of the cleverly-titled “Evil Medley” on the setlist, got a few people excited but the best response, of course, came from “Welcome Home” and “The Suffering” which drew massive singalongs. Sanchez’ double-necked guitar was brought out for “Welcome Home” and the solo trade-off between he and Stever was both musically and visually impressive. Stever utilized the talk box for traditional show closer “The Willing Well IV: Final Cut” and the song’s sweeping structure really embodies everything that makes Coheed and Cambria so compelling both live and in studio.
No World For Tomorrow
Gravemakers & Gunslingers
Ten Speed (of God’s Blood and Burial)
A Favor House Atlantic
The Hound (of Blood and Rank)
Evil Medley (incl. Devil In Jersey City/Everything Evil/The Trooper)
Blood Red Summer
The Running Free
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
The Willing Well IV: Final Cut
It seems strange to me that a band like Coheed and Cambria, while hardly “mainstream” or “popular,” is still playing club shows in front of a few hundred people. They certainly aren’t in the same ranks as a band like Coldplay who can fill a ten thousand seat arena but they do seem to be held in a higher regard than the chosen venue would apply. Not to complain, either, as the intimate setting was extremely cool and the diversity between the two bands was interesting but it shouldn’t be much longer before Coheed and Cambria steps up the food chain and is able to command a higher ticket price at a larger venue. They are innovative, extraordinary and push boundaries that most acts aren’t able—or willing—to do. Come to think of it, that’s probably why bands like Coheed and Cambria and Baroness are still playing theatres and not stadiums in front of people who are only able to swallow the mass-produced generic crap that crowds the radio dial.
***Thanks to Jessica at Live Nation for the press pass.