It felt like high school — like Warped Tour was still the summer event. With a killer light show and a mannequin-filled set, post-hardcore concept-album mainstays Coheed and Cambria played to an electric cigarette-smoking, almost-sold out crowd at the Congress Theater last night.
Playing with an intensity like they just released a new album (they did), lead singer Claudio Sanchez had to tie back his massive mane after just five songs. Coheed burned through a diverse set list, one that started with the first couple tracks of the just-released The Afterman: Descension and quickly delved into their classic catalog with “A Favor House Atlantic”. The crowd, recognizing the band’s hard work (they’ve released two albums in half-a-year), gleefully repeated the song’s lyrics back to Sanchez as soon as he belted the words “your eyes.”
Yet, songs like “Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher” are proving to be some of the best singalongs in Coheed’s catalog, independent of their conceptual placements within story albums like The Afterman: Ascension. As the crowd fist-pumped to a slower, funkier live version of the song, it was easy to see why the longing of “Hang your secrets / Hang ‘em up, hang ‘em up now” can disperse into an audience of thousands.
Meanwhile, Year of the Black Rainbow first single “Here We Are Juggernaut” allowed the band to show off its instrumental prowess and justifying, if nothing else, its inclusion in the Rock Band game series. Josh Eppard’s skillful drumming almost allowed you to forgive the thirteen-year-old angst in the refrain: “Nothing matters anymore.”
Coheed’s penchant for proggy excess was on full display. Coheed’s past two albums, based on Sanchez’s comic book series The Armory Wars, immerse the audience live better than on record: You’re fully inhabited by Sanchez’s audiovisual world, so much so that you forget that you’re in a run-down theater and you forget the stellar sets by openers Between the Buried and Me and especially Russian Circles, an awesome Sargent House metal band from Chicago.
All three bands used ambient drone music to segue from one song into the other — with varying degrees of skill. While Russian Circles and Between the Buried and Me’s use of drone segue used natural and spontaneous chord progressions, Coheed’s was a little too planned and startling, save for the two minutes of “The Hollow” morphing into “Key Entity Extraction 1: Domino the Destitute”.
The highlight of the show, nonetheless, was Coheed’s classic prog-metal closer “Welcome Home”, as the band showed off their musical chops from the very moment Sanchez whipped out his twelve-string guitar and promptly soloed with it over his head. Sanchez left the stage profusely thanking an enthusiastic audience after playing for almost two hours.
Strangely, there was the seeming lack of camaraderie among the bands contrasted with the audience members’ diverse taste. Those singing along to Sanchez’s whine also sang along to BTBAM singer Tommy Giles Rogers, Jr.’s indecipherable growl (and probably would have sang along to Russian Circles, if they had a vocalist). Yet, the three bands were an odd pairing, mostly because their between-song banter rarely recognized the other bands playing.
Still, Coheed and Cambria proved that their live reputation still stands above their studio reputation. Replicating the harmonies on record in a venue whose reputation for poor acoustics precedes itself, the band was able to transform their best record yet (Descension) into a captivating story, one that exists in the same universe the band has created over their over ten-year career. Hang on to the glory, indeed.
Coheed and Cambria setlist:
Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant
A Favor House Atlantic
Goodnight, Fair Lady
No World for Tomorrow
Key Entity Extraction III: Vic the Butcher
Key Entity Extraction IV: Evagria the Faithful
Here We Are Juggernaut
Dark Side of Me
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Key Entity Extraction I: Domino the Destitute
Photography and gallery by Jeremy D. Larson