Live Music + Gig Reviews

Deftones @ Scala, London

7 June 2006

The brutal and gratuitous slaughtering of nu-metal in the early noughties, as I believe they are now known, could not have been better received by a generation of music fans wondering how crying over 7-string riffs could have become such a commodity.

Within every musical niche, however, lies the odd group that transcends all the spiel. Such as Sacramento’s Deftones, who tonight are the only act on a night that works as a warm up for the weekend’s Download Festival. Arriving to a chorus of yelled appreciation, Chino Moreno clambers onto the crowd barrier in his customary fashion; at the back of the standng area he is less than 20 metres from me.

The London Scala is designed to fit few more than a thousand spectators – the last time Deftones came to London they entertained ten-times that many at Wembley. With this level of relative intimacy, the blistering opening of Korea and My Own Summer sounds all the more penetrative.

The pace does not slacken as Feiticeira and When Girls Telephone Boys tear through unprotected ears; with less effort applied to throwing their bodies around the stage, the five-piece concentrate solely on creating chaos from the speakers. That said, tracks such as Be Quiet and Drive allow the band to show what an incredible visual spectacle they are. As jet black silhouettes loom in and out of focus, interspersed with shimmering steaks of blue, the sampling work of Frank Delgado comes to the fore and leaves the masses in quiet reverie.

Inevitably, though, it is Chino who steals the show. Standing above the audience, hand on hip and with a few corners amply filled out, he looks remarkably like a dark teapot, yet remains a central focus as he spits, slurs and screams his way through a two-hour set. Although heavily distorted to create an uncomfortable rasping sound, the singer does not miss a note. This is particularly apparent during Lotion, in which Moreno flits from soaring melody to the intense screaming that sounds more like a wild bird’s call with each passing year.

Adding the final dimension is bassist Chi Cheng, whose bellowing vocal sounds like a dinosaur having a nightmare. Add this to wild-bird screams, and Deftones create a brutally fascinating pool of noise. This seems to reach its logical conclusion with the storming riff-driven Headup, and as Chino blows a farewell kiss to the crowd the routine seems successfully completed.

But, then again, cries of “Seven Words!” had gone unheeded. While an encore may have been expected, however, few could have had the optimism to predict that 1995 debut album Adrenaline would be played in its entirety, from start to finish. From chugging opener Bored, in which vocal work is particularly top-notch, to the aforementioned crowd favourite, this section of the evening sees the band visibly taking delight from their work.

Crowd communication changed from barely present to laughing and joking, and song structure rejected routine album versions for improvised meanderings into guitar dreamland. Clearly, we had been given an advanced screening of the festival set list, before Deftones cut loose and began to enjoy themselves. Such an affirmation makes not currently lying under a smoke-filled Donnington sky, that touch more bearable.

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Deftones @ Scala, London