Live review: Deftones - Alexandra Palace 05.05.17

Sound problems mar what otherwise would have been an exemplary performance by the critically acclaimed Sacramento metallers.  

Often cited as metal's answer to Radiohead, Deftones have endured a critical praising that is otherwise not accustomed to metal bands. Whilst many are seen as objects of amusement to the mainstream media, Deftones have retained a level of respect that is all the more surprising as they are most readily associated with the maligned genre of Nu-Metal. 

Their recent album, 'Gore', has received a mostly lukewarm reception from their fan base however, not that the queue for their recent London show at Alexandra Palace gave any indication of this. The queue easily stretched around the entire perimeters of the building, leaving fans to excitedly discuss the band's output in the cold as they waited to be let into the sold out show. 

First up, Deftones had brought along hardcore legends AFI to open for them. This being their first time in Europe for 7 years, AFI certainly had a lot to live up to and performance-wise they certainly didn't disappoint. Unfortunately the sound was ropey throughout. From where we were stood, at least, the majority of the crowd around us looked as interested and enthralled in the band as if Deftones had instead got Chuckles the children's birthday clown to perform a collection of close-up street magic on them instead. 

The evening was always destined to focus on Deftones though, and by the time they strolled onto the stage to swells of David Bowie's 'Girl Loves Me', the crowd was at fever pitch. As the band kicked off with a particularly crushing rendition of 'Korea', arms began flailing wildly as the audience tried desperately to get as near to the metal collective as possible. 

The crowd barely stopped moving for the duration of the near-two hour set either. Classics like 'Swerve City' and 'Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)' got the audience frantically jumping, whilst 'My Own Summer (Shove It)' did exactly what the title told them to and led to a joyous mass attempt to try and shove as many people as they possibly could. 

The band themselves were on fine form, performing each song with a confidence that can only come with being one of the best metal bands on the planet. The difference in the members' personalities shone through, contrasting each other magnificently. On one side of the stage, you had guitarist Stef Carpenter, a seemingly immovable blur of long black hair head banging along to what ever distortedly pounding riff he had let rip to throb over the crowded room. 

On the other side of the pendulum swing you had Chino Moreno, the band's iconic and effortlessly street frontman. Despite having a broken foot, Moreno still managed to jump and strut on anything that was in reach whilst letting the crowd radiate in his effortless coolness. Everyone in attendance clearly wanted to be him as the shouts of his name only grew louder as the gig progressed, ultimately becoming the chant favoured even over the band's own name. 

With all this in place you had the makings of what could surely be one of the gigs of the year, unfortunately the sound guy had other ideas. Sounding muffled and hollow from the moment they walked on stage, the sound issues that plagued AFI seemed in no way to evaporate in time for Deftones. Anything heavy or uptempo was rendered at best muted and at worst, almost entirely unrecognisable. 

Songs like the first-clinchingly brutal 'Headup' fell flat when it normally sounds all-encompassing and downright disgusting (in a good way). We had no idea if the band were playing early single 'Teething' or not, which tells the entire story. However, it was the slower songs that stole the show thereafter, if only because they weren't entirely lost in the mix. 

The expansive 'Tempest' took on a whole new level live as it's dreamy, pulsating verses gave way to its stratospheric chorus, whilst the one/two/three punch of 'Digital Bath', 'Change (in the House of Flies)' and 'Passenger' from their seminal album, 'White Pony', was mouthwateringly good. Hearing the crowd sing every word back at them, like their lives depended on it, was a proper pinch yourself moment. 

By the time Deftones came on for an encore of 'Rocket Skates' and 'Back to School (Mini Maggit)' the sound had magically sorted itself out, which led to the triumphant finale, though in some ways the damage had already been done. Not that the crowd seemed to mind of course, as they left the venue was still chanting 'Rocket Skates' rabble rousing chorus of "Guns! Razors! Knives!". Spirits seemed to be high and for all purposes, Deftones had put in a good night of work, although it was difficult not to think about what could have been, however. 

Words Jed Grainger

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