As the Grammy-winning Deftones ("Best Metal Performance 2001") have illustrated over the past 20 years, there's plenty of room for progression in aggressive music. Whether you effuse admiration for the band or haven't really developed a taste for their art, there's no question that they bring a diverse crayon box to school, often coloring outside the lines of popular music theory. As a result, other bands have copied their homework but haven't been able to back it up with a proper oral report.
On a cool November night in Tempe, AZ, the Marquee Theater was the recipient of a sold-out, and overly-packed, Deftones show in support of their new album, Koi No Yokan (literally translated, "love's premonition"). The band unleashed openers "Diamond Eyes", "Rocket Skates", and "Be Quiet & Drive" on an extremely hot crowd, eliciting instant audience participation (crowd-surfing, fist-pumping, and sing-alongs). It was quite evident that the band was on top of its game and the crowd was feeling every bit of it. Bodies flew over the barricade, people bounced with their arms over their heads, random liquids were dispersed into the air, and, as is custom, a few people lit up (Colorado-style).
New songs "Poltergeist", "Rosemary", "Swerve City", and "Tempest" were well received, and fans of earlier Deftones albums were treated to many of the classics including "My Own Summer", "Knife Party", "Passenger", "Change", and "7 Words" (It never gets old hearing 30-year-olds yelling, "Shove it!" and, "Suck! Suck! Suck!" at the top of their beer-soaked voices).
Lead-singer Chino Moreno was at his best when he shed his guitar and interacted with the crowd. He jumped off of speakers, came down to greet the crowd several times (the ladies were grabby), and unleashed a few dance moves that may or may not have been lifted from early 90's West coast rap videos (the band is from Sacramento, after all). He also slowed things down to dedicate the song, "Rivière", to the band's ex-bassist, Chi Cheng, who suffered a brain injury from a car crash almost four years prior. Steph Carpenter's wild mane flew around as he delivered crushing riffs with his 7 and 8-string guitars. Bassist, Sergio Vega looked like he was having a blast, bouncing around the stage, while Abe Cunningham was buried behind his drum kit (and lots of bright lights), as he wasn't easily visible until he walked up and threw his drumsticks into the crowd after the band closed their set. Frank Delgado, the band's DJ, coolly supplied complimentary atmospherics and moodiness. The crowd didn't seem like it was ready to go home after the three song encore ("Bored", "Root", "7 Words"), but the Deftones played for over an hour and a half, so security was probably thankful the lights came on.
One of the most common misconceptions about the band is that it caters to an angst-ridden audience, and for those having the opportunity to experience the push and pull of the pit, most of the participants are respectful of each other. You'll often find them swaying and clapping during the quiet breakdowns as if they were at a Sade concert. This is most likely due to Moreno's affinity for genres outside of the metal scene and his willingness to shed machismo in favor of romanticism. No doubt, women equally flocked to the show fueled by the crooning of Moreno, who often weaves cryptic love-tinged passages into his lyrics, a la Robert Smith of The Cure.
On the way out of the venue, the buzz was that the show was one of the best the Deftones had ever played in Arizona. In hindsight, the audience, like the band, is progressive, and often ranks the live performances according to whatever mood it put them in at the time. While there will never be a consensus answer as to which Deftones era is/was the best, it's clear that the band is maintaining a very high level of energy and sending people home happy. We can only hope that they keep producing quality albums and giving us memorable live shows as they blast into their 40's.