Live Music Review: Coheed and Cambria
Last Thursday, I had the immense pleasure of attending the first show of Coheed and Cambria’s 2015 tour. They played at the Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, a venue I had visited twice before. (I’ll be going back in July to see Animals as Leaders perform with Between the Buried and Me.)
Coheed and Cambria is (in my opinion) of the best bands to see live, regardless of whether or not you are a superfan of their music. They have a rabid, nerdy cult following, largely due to singer Claudio Sanchez’ sci fi/fantasy comic book series, The Amory Wars. Every Coheed and Cambria album follows a chapter of the sci fi story. Personally, I’ve never read any of the comics and I don’t know the story; I’m all about the music.
I had seen Coheed and Cambria once before, at the Wiltern. That show was absolutely incredible, so I was very excited to see them perform once again.
The opening act was a post-hardcore/emo band I had never heard before called Seahaven, from Torrance, California. Their music sort of reminded me of a non-Southern, slightly harder-edged version of Kings of Leon. Overall, I liked them a lot. The music was interesting for the most part, and all the members of the band were very passionate and skilled players. They do need to tighten up their live set a bit, though. I counted a couple of times where the members lost each other in the mix.
Seahaven should have cut their set by two songs, and not because I didn’t enjoy their music. I did. The lead singer said the usual “thanks for coming; thanks to Coheed,” and then they played a very strong, rock-driven tune that would have been a perfect closer (Black and White). Everyone figured they were done, but then they played two more; one a sappy ballad and the other a punk-influenced song. Had they finished two songs earlier, the band would have left the stage on a much stronger note. Maybe they intended to do so but then realized they had more time?
I liked Seahaven and plan on giving their records a listen. The music is well-crafted, but the live set needs a little bit of improvement. (But not much.)
Setlist: Ghost | Flesh | Wild West Selfishness| Sleep Alone | Silhouette (Latin Skin) | It’s Over | Black and White | Andreas | Goodnight
Sound: ★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★ out of 5
Coheed and Cambria
Coheed and Cambria took the stage at about 9:30 PM to an ecstatic audience. One of the major differences between this show and the one I saw in 2013 was the crowd. The crowd in 2013 was a mix of attendees who had come to see Russian Circles, Between the Buried and Me, and Coheed and Cambria. Not this one. Everyone was there to see Claudio and company. Instead of the Russian Circles stoners and the BTBAM metalheads, you had a venue full of passionate prog-rock comic book nerds. And I mean passionate. Take the devotion of Comic-Con attendees, and multiply it by the devotion of rock fanboys/girls and you’ll have an idea of the fanbase. There were times when I couldn’t hear the band play over the crowd’s singing.
What makes Coheed and Cambria such a phenomenal live band is their crowd interaction and their energy. Despite the fact that they’ve been working on their “dad bods” (Claudio’s words), the members of Coheed maintain their high energy for the entire set and often run and bounce around on stage like maniacs. Couple this with the nerdy fanaticism of the crowd and you’ve got a recipe for a good time. The members are also incredibly tight playing together, an example of which I’ll share below.
The other major difference between this show and the last one I attended was the setlist. When I had seen them in 2013, they had just released a (phenomenal) double album called The Afterman. Most of the songs they played were off of this release. As I had never seen them before, I was hoping for a lot of the old songs that I knew, but I only got one or two. This show was almost exclusively older material.
The highlight for me was about halfway through the show when they played Time Consumer and No World for Tomorrow. Time Consumer is my favorite Coheed and Cambria song, and it was the first time I had heard it performed live. That’s a special moment for any music fan. I included No World for Tomorrow as part of the highlight, due to my “tight” comment earlier in this post. At one point during the song, the audience was clapping along to the beat, but they started to rush and clap faster than the actual time signature of the song. The band could have been thrown off, but instead they adjusted the beat to the audience’s clapping and then readjusted the song to the correct signature when the chorus came on. That’s very impressive. My drummer friend, Jeremy, was also very impressed and is the one who pointed this out to me. I’ve included a video of this performance so you can see it for yourself; please forgive the audio quality.
Even if you don’t know Coheed and Cambria, you might know the song Devil in Jersey City. I’d argue that this is their most famous song, and I was delighted to hear it live. I was expecting a more enthusiastic crowd response than it got, but maybe the long-term fans are sick of hearing it. I’ve included their music video, below.
Like the last time I saw them, they closed the encore with the song Welcome Home. This is a perfect closer, and sends the band off on a high note. This is also one of the heaviest Coheed songs. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a standard closer, and it’s another sign that the band knows how to play to its strengths and connect with their audience.
After the show, we exited the venue to a strange occurrence in Southern California: a heavy rainstorm in May. The roads were flooded and we witnessed a near miss of someone getting run over. Luckily, it was a near miss and not a hit. Getting soaked on the walk back to the car didn’t dampen our spirits at all after such an excellent performance.
The only thing negative I can say about this concert is the sound mixing sounded a bit muddy. (You can sort of hear it in the live video, though the sound quality isn’t so great on its own merits anyway.) I’m not sure if this was a Coheed problem or an Observatory problem. When I saw Coheed at the Wiltern, the sound mixing was phenomenal. When I saw Palms at the Observatory, same thing. Perhaps it was just an off night? It wasn’t bad enough to ruin my enjoyment, but it was noticeable.
Setlist: Here We Are Juggernaut | A Favor House Atlantic | The Camper Velourium III: Al the Killer | In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 | Junesong Provision | Time Consumer | No World for Tomorrow | Delirium Trigger | Devil in Jersey City | Blood Red Summer | The Crowing
Encore: Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial) | The Suffering | Welcome Home
Coheed and Cambria:
Setlist: ★★★★★ out of 5
Sound: ★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★½ out of 5
So, yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed this concert. Coheed and Cambria is one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. Their rapport with the audience is incredible. The only thing preventing me from giving this show 5 stars is the muddy sound mixing.
I’ve got some time until my next scheduled concert, which will be Danzig. The next live performance I’m going to see is the play Les Miserables at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. It’s my favorite show that I’ve seen on Broadway, so I’m excited to see what a smaller theater troupe can do with it.
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