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Live Review + Photos: Deftones, Sydney 2016

Deftones / Karnivool / Voyager
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 12/11/2016
Review & Photos: Peter Zaluzny

Although Deftones have remained relevant well-beyond the nu-metal’s heyday, their fans still insist on dressing like it’s 1998 when the band comes to town. It’s fantastic, and indicative of how many Sydney hardcores have been in it for the long haul. After all, while there were plenty of youngsters that had dug up some docs and torn jeans for the occasion, most of the classic fashion on show at The Hordern Pavilion, was wrapped around people old enough to remember the day Around The Fur hit the scene, and changed their lives forever.

But before the thirty-somethings reverted to teenage form, however, Perth outfit Voyager kicked things off with a little prog-power-party metal. It was the biggest tour they’d ever been a part of, and five albums alongside an endless stream of shows around the world, meant no amount of nerves could take hold. With just 30 minutes in their pockets, Voyager ripped through a bunch of their more popular numbers (with a new one tossed in for good measure), introducing newcomers to their unique spin on the genre. That, and their overt excitement that usually skews into a hilariously dorky performance. They ham it up, they ham it up hard, but hey, when they keytar is an essential element of the band’s sound, you’d expect nothing less. It’s a shame that the most of the intricacies in their music was blown out by a bad mix because the rest of the show, from the roaring solos right down to the goofy guitar poses, was glorious.

Karnivool weren’t quite so crazy, although frontman Ian Kenny’s dad dancing was a sight to behold. Only Jon Stockman and his bass guitar moved to any grand degree, but that was just fine. You don’t go to a Karnivool show for the visual spectacular, you go because you want lock into the music, and drift away from the outside for 45-minutes. In this respect, Karnivool are masters of their craft, because they know how to structure a set. Their gigs live or die on audience engagement, and by putting together a collection of songs that ebbed and flowed between emotional highs and lows, before reaching unforgettable explosive peaks time and again. From the get go, Karnivool grabbed onto fans and refused to let go until they’d finished tossing them in every emotional direction they could think of. Judging by the post-show air of satisfaction, that was exactly what everyone wanted.

Their relatively static set was, in a way, the perfect preface to Deftone’s bat-shit crazy performance. You wouldn’t know until you saw it, but there’s a stark difference between frontman Chino Moreno’s pre-show, and on-stage personas. Sydney caught a glimpse of this as he calmly walked on stage with the rest of the band, but the second he heard the opening chug of “Diamond Eyes,” something snapped. You could see it in his eyes, and all of a sudden, on-stage Chino came to life.

Running, crouching, screaming, shouting, and often venturing down to the barrier, the energetic frontman only stopped moving like a six-year-old dosed up to the eyeballs on sugar, when songs like “Digital Bath” demanded that he play some guitar. Even then, Chino strutted about the stage with the kind of fearless swagger that says “I’ve been at this game a long time kid. I love it and I don’t care what you think, because I’m here to have a damn good time.”

This is the beauty of a Deftones show, regardless of age and changes in tone from album to album, the band’s dark, intense, unrelenting stage show, always throws you back to the time when nothing else mattered but their music. It’s not a lazy nostalgia trip, but rather, one night of indulging in reckless abandon, to mosh and scream like crazy along to “My Own Summer (Shove It),” “Change (In the House of Flies)” and the deliciously epic “Hexagram.”

Heavy as hell and intense as a blunt-force kick to the face, the only antidote to the distorted, down-tuned riffs that almost shattered the speakers, were Chino’s constant whoops, hollers and screeches. While the rest of the band held down the fort, Chino took a little liberty with the way Deftone’s songs used to sound, by wailing and wooing into the microphone at almost every opportunity. It was, interesting, but you couldn’t say no to a man enjoying an opportunity to get totally reckless and fuck with his own songs. And when this fun culminates in a short, sneaky cover of “How I Could Just Kill A Man” by Cypress Hill, smack bang in the middle of “Engine No.9,” you just sit back and accept the enthusiasm, warts and all. At the end of the day, pure, unabashed enjoyment is much more engaging that a polished production that’s planned down to a T.

At least one song from each album made it into the show, and though there were a few ambient moments here and there, Deftones spent most of the evening in the heavier end of their discography. Musically, they’re as tight as ever, and it was interesting to hear how their nu-metal sound had evolved throughout the career, from the early rap-influenced Adrenaline, to the hard hitting, dark harmonies that drench all four corners of their latest record, Gore. The longevity makes sense in that context, and when you hear a brief history of Deftones in one sitting, it’s easy to see why they’ve held onto so many fans, after transcending the bonds of nu-metal. People may turn up to hear the classics, but Deftones are far from becoming a nostalgia act.

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