Toward the middle of their headlining set at the Greek Theatre Berkeley last Friday, Deftones frontman Chino Moreno took a moment to thank the audience for attending, pointing out that early on in their career, they would often venture south from their home base of “Sacto” (or Sacramento for the normies) to play at the tiny, gone-but-not-forgotten club Berkeley Square (as evidenced here).
Soaking in the crowd like a solid pull off of a bottle of bourbon, the band continued their full-frontal assault, giving it their all and sparing no one. This is just one of the things that makes a band like Deftones a continual hit with the masses. Between their ever-evolving brand of metal and their never-a-dull-moment live show, the icing on the cake has always been their willingness to include the audience, clearly jiving off of its energy in synergistic fashion. Historically, Deftones have always acknowledged the importance of the relationship between the band and the audience, and this night was no different.
I’ve seen Deftones several times over the years, in a variety of venues. I caught them in an outdoor setting when they played at the Warped Tour many moons ago, but this was a much better space to catch the band. Warming up the audience were Sacramento electronic duo Sister Crayon, followed by Alabama hip-hop artist YelaWolf.
A two-piece act from Sacramento, Sister Crayon performed a 30-minute set of electronic-inspired trip-hop, showcasing singer Terra Lopez’s soulful tone that was accompanied by programmer Dani Fernandez’s skilled song-smithing. YelaWolf was up next, offering up his aggressive hip-hop stylings that were peppered with rock and industrial (but certainly not nü-metal) elements. He managed to get the crowd engaged several times with an a cappella rendition of the Garth Brooks classic “Friends in Low Places” and by encouraging audience members to raise their lighters/cell phones in unison to honor the victims of war, racism and police violence.
Deftones came out to a wanting audience; the anticipation was palpable. Going directly into their barn-burner of a song “Rocket Skates”, the pit was whipped into a frenzy and nary an audience member wasn’t screaming along to the chorus chant “GUNS! RAZORS!! KNIVES!!!” Keeping the energy level up, the group jumped right into “Geometric Headdress” followed by what was surely a crowd favorite, the classic and beautiful “Be Quite and Drive (Far Away)” from their sophomore album Around the Fur.
The band was tight, punchy and engaging. Guitarist Stephan Carpenter held down his side of the stage, and if I can use a Who reference, playing John Entwistle to Moreno’s Roger Daltrey and Abe Cunningham’s Keith Moon. Speaking of Cunningham, the criminally underrated drummer was in peak form, laying down bombastic beats with precision. Bassist Sergio Vega’s low end was a bit subdued in the mix, but given the outdoor setting, that was to be expected. In contrast, this was one of the few times I have been able to really catch the additions that keyboardist/turntablist/beat-maker Frank Delgado was contributing.
As they moved around their two-decade-old catalog, Deftones kept a solid balance of their more energetic and brutal tunes (“Rickets”, “Swerve City”, “Diamond Eyes”, “Gore”) with their more delicate but still heavy songs (“Digital Bath”, “Rosemary”, “(L)MIRL”). Switching between playing guitar and strictly vocals, Moreno would often venture out onto a catwalk closer to the pit to join the audience as he is known to do. At one point, he crowd-walked into the pit for a scream-along with a gang of arms reaching out to get as close as possible.
Appropriately, Deftones dedicated their song “Prince” to the recently, tragically fallen musical legend, in which the stage was drowned in a wash of purple lighting. The set ended in a trio of sing-along favorites from my favorite album White Pony: “Knife Prty”, “Change (In the House of Flies)” and “Passenger”, with nearly every audience member gladly assuming Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan’s vocal part on the latter.
For an encore, the band whipped through four early-catalog tunes: “My Own Summer (Shove It)”, “Headup”, “Bored”, and “Engine No. 9”. This was a treat for anyone who has been along for the ride with the band since its early days. I was pleased with the collection of songs that Deftones offered up this evening, pulling from seven of their eight albums, the only one left out being their self-titled LP.
I overheard a few folks who weren’t that stoked, saying they felt the band lacked energy, but I respectfully disagree. Deftones are one of those rare beasts that have managed to make music on their own terms throughout their entire career, developing their signature sound that often has been imitated but never replicated. Given how much of a workhorse they have been as a band and also how much the individual members are, plus how vast their catalog is, I feel that they did a great job keeping the show engaging and providing something for everyone.
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
Change (In the House of Flies)
My Own Summer (Shove It)