My February LA concert experience ended on Friday at the Wiltern Theater in spectacular fashion. The lineup for the evening was Russian circles, Between the Buried and Me, and the headliner Coheed and Cambria. I had never seen any of these bands before, and I was really looking forward to it. I’ve been a fan of Russian Circles and Between the Buried and Me for a few years now, but am embarrassed to say I only recently became a fan of Coheed and Cambria. I heard them before in college when their first album came out but I couldn’t get into it because of Claudio Sanchez’ high pitched vocals. Something clicked with me last year, and I’ve been devouring their music ever since.
I drove to the concert alone because my buddy John and his girlfriend Lauren were delayed. Luckily, I got there early enough that I found a parking space on the street. I joined the end of the line, which was already wrapping around past the Ralph’s parking lot on Oxford Street. Immediately I could see that the crowd was somewhat varied. Most were there to see Coheed, but I did pick out a few BTBAM metalheads. While in line, the Hare Krishnas were selling stickers and bracelets. An older woman tricked the young couple in front of me into buying a couple of peace stickers. Unfortunately for them, they had to throw away the stickers before entering the theater. I guess I’m jaded enough that whenever somebody approaches me in the street I immediately turn her away without even hearing her out.
Once inside, I was able to get a spot in the front center area behind the VIP section. I’m glad I did because once it was full, the security guards closed it off. Russian Circles came on at 8 PM and their set was very minimalistic in a couple of ways. This worked, as I happen to enjoy minimalism. The three members of the band stood in front of the completely dark back drop and were lit only by two yellow floodlights at the floor level. It gave a spooky vibe to their performance which I quite enjoyed and thought it fit well with their music. The music, if you don’t know, is all instrumental. Whenever I listen to them on my iPod I usually just shuffle all the songs so I was not really sure of the song titles. (I got the setlist online.) I recognized my favorite off their new record called Mlàdek. The band played for only about 30 minutes, and it seemed that short. The audience seemed to respond to them pretty well as I noticed a lot of concertgoers bobbing their heads in tune with the heavy baselines and chugging guitar riffs. Russian Circles was louder and lower than they had any right to be.
Next up was Between the Buried and Me. I’d been really excited to see them live ever since missing them in Hollywood a couple years ago when they played with August Burns Red, and they did not disappoint. They came on stage to loud cheers, and almost immediately a large younger guy started clearing a space for the mosh pit. I was right at the edge, so I knew I was going in. Behind the stage, they had a banner with a graphic showing a dark angel standing on the earth. At least I think that’s what it was. On the stage, they had set up a wall of colored lights behind the band that shone different patterns based on the tempos of their songs. It fit into their “colors” theme nicely. They started their set with “Astral Body“, which is the lead single off their new record. The floor erupted into a swirl of chaos and violence. So of course, I pushed my way into it. Three of the six songs they played were off of the new album, which by the way, is fantastic. Tommy Giles was the most animated of the bunch, throwing a fist often and aggressively. My favorite part of their set was when they played “Ants of the Sky” and “Prequel to the Sequel“, both off their 2007 album entitled “Colors.” In my opinion, “Colors” is far and away their best album. All of the metal and progressive elements come together to form a beautiful, dark cohesive unit. The very same large guy who opened the pit did a do-si-do with me during the country hoe-down part of “Ants of the Sky.” That was a lot of fun. BTBAM closed with an old one, Selkies, off of “Alaska.” I think this pleased the fans of their older stuff, although I did hear one fan mention that he loved the song but it was “played out.”
Setlist (Click link to purchase an MP3):
After their set, a BTBAM fan and his buddy were obviously leaving the theater and yelled something like, “Enjoy Co-gay.” He was obviously not a Coheed fan, and he was also obviously a drunken blowhard. I finally met up with John and Lauren, who had arrived in the middle of the BTBAM set. We chatted briefly about nerdy website stuff as well as the advertisements on the screen between acts. I think I read somewhere that the average person today sees more ads in a day than a person 50 years ago saw in a month or something like that. I’m probably way off on the actual amounts, but you get the idea.
The biggest applause of all came when Coheed and Cambria took the stage, as I figured it would, judging by the number of T-shirts in the crowd bearing their name. The Coheed and Cambria stage looked, fittingly enough, like a spaceship. The male/female triangle symbol (I think that’s what it is) lit up in various patterns, and it “spoke” during the musical breaks. On either side of the band were containers with mannequins inside. They looked like figures in hypersleep. The decor was fitting since all of Coheed’s albums are based on a series of comic books involving a space opera called The Amory Wars, written by the band’s frontman. They got right into it and opened with the first two songs off their newest record. Once again, the pit opened immediately and John got a full beer spilled on him. I remember thinking to myself that this was a “nerd pit”… That’s a loving term, I’m a nerd and I can relate well with them. I don’t care how much metal you infuse into your music, progressive rock is still nerdy, math music. And I love it.
Most of the songs were off Coheed’s new double album, which was expected, but very welcome as it is my favorite record of 2012, hands down. They didn’t play anything off of Second Stage Turbine Blade, but they did play two tracks off of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. John was visibly pleased as he dove into the pit when Claudio starting belting out the beginning to “A Favor House Atlantic.” Personally, my favorite was “Evagria the Faithful,” my favorite off the new album, and a song that grooves. Throughout the set, some of the songs had animated illustrations flashing on either side of the stage that went along with the story of each song. I haven’t read any of the comics, so didn’t understand many of them. It definitely added another level to the performance, so it was a welcome addition.
Claudio Sanchez has a presence to him, and not just because of his wild hair. He’s another that you can tell he just loves what he is doing and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. His passion was matched by his talent on the guitar. This is not to detract from the performances of the other band members, it’s just that Claudio’s performance was something special. Of course, after the band left the stage, the crowd demanded an encore, which was actually my favorite part of the whole show. Claudio opened with an acoustic rendition of “Wake Up,” to which most of the crowd put their arms around each other, put their lighters/cell phones in the air, and sang along. Music brings people together. They closed it out with Domino the Destitute and Welcome Home, which got the most animated and chaotic nerd pit. Talk about closing the show on a high note.
Setlist (Click link to purchase an MP3): Pretelethal | Sentry the Defiant | A Favor House Atlantic | Goodnight, Fair Lady | No World for Tomorrow | The Crowing | Vic the Butcher | Evagria the Faithful | The Afterman | Here We Are Juggernaut | Dark Side of Me | In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Without a doubt, this was the best show I had seen in a long time, and my only regret was that John and Lauren missed a good chunk of it. I would definitely try to make it out to see any one of these bands again, especially Coheed and Cambria.
Russian Circles: ★★★★ of 5 | Between the Buried and Me: ★★★★ ½ of 5 | Coheed and Cambria: ★★★★★ of 5.
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