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Thursday, 02 May 2013 12:45

Concert review: Deftones (with Ghost in the Machine) rock hard despite loss of bassist Chi Cheng, at the Pageant, Wednesday, May 1

Concert review: Deftones (with Ghost in the Machine) rock hard despite loss of bassist Chi Cheng, at the Pageant, Wednesday, May 1
Written by Will Kyle

Fans sporting tattoos, beanies, backwards hats and dark clothing crowded into the Pageant ready for a sold-out Deftones show. Never have I seen (in recent memory) so many sleeved-up men and women. It made my own tattoos (also on display) seem oddly normal, their counter-culture aspect weirdly nullified by the inky surroundings.

Parking was a complete bitch. The MetroLink lot stood full of cars by 7 p.m., my not-so-secret west Skinker apartment parking appeared similarly jammed. Wash U cops cracked their knuckles and shook their heads, blocking off the engineering annex parking on the East side of Skinker, north of Delmar.

I trundled east on Delmar, crossing over the bridge, passing the old train station, settling my car in a blocked-off side street just past the nameless check-into-cash joint. Long-haired fans smashed empty beer cans on their hips and pulled fleeting drags of weed smoke from tiny batties that glinted in the early-evening sun. I gave them a dude-nod then looked away, assuring them I was no narc, allowing them to continue their pre-game rituals.

After stashing my car radio and laptop computer in my glove box -- I learned my lesson last time parking a distance east on Delmar -- I hiked toward the Pageant amidst droves of tatted-up girls in combat boots and dudes in sleeveless shirts with slogans like "Don't Panic" and "Ash Was Right."

Ghost in the Machine won its opening spot for the Deftones after winning a contest hosted by 105.7 the Point -- an in-studio battle-of-the-bands sort of affair. The five-piece band certainly held its own, utilizing two guitars, bass, vocals, drums and copious amounts of Auto-Tune.

"Jarhead" stood out as a heavy-metal, alt-rock ballad. After the song, a particularly vocal fan yelled, "Let us hear your real voice Lil' Wayne!" The band's camera guy ran around stage filming the performance and audience who mostly stood still, swilling beer and occasionally bobbing their heads to a big drop or post-chorus thrash session.

Lead singer Jeff Blumer skipped and hopped across the stage, leaping atop two big boxes, upon which Chino Moreno would later stand, sing and scream. After "Deep Blue Dream," Blumer told the audience, "I can't tell you how stoked I am to be here, I mean, I'm jumping on Chino's boxes!"

Ghost in the Machine closed with "Overload" from 2012's "Earth Island" EP. Guitarists Dan Schram and Bryan Kay offered up excellent backing vocals, while bassist Ethan Mueller dropped a heady line over the song's quieted post-chorus. Ghost in the Machine brought leaden, '90s thrash-alt-metal with form and something like grace, wasting not its opening spot at the Pageant.

After a set break, bearded and wild-haired bassist Sergio Vega appeared on stage wearing a bright pink T-shirt. Soon, singer Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham walked on stage as light-crate strobes flashed over the roaring audience.

Moreno wound the microphone cable around his fist, spit on the floor, gave the seething crowd a quick wave and crushed into "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" from 1997's "Around the Fur." The pit exploded with manic moshing and clouds of weed smoke. Bouncers hunted for the source of both, but too much was happening in the sea of hands, flying plastic beer cups, sweat and hair.

"My Own Summer (Shove It)" opened with a tasty shoe-gaze aspect before exploding into Moreno's oddly dulcet screaming and machine gun-fire annunciation of, "Shove it, shove it, shove it!" "Rosemary," from 2012's "Koi No Kokan," began in typical Deftones fashion with a somber and heart-felt, dreamy lead-in before opening up like the beginning of an acid trip to heavily distorted guitars, crashing drums and Moreno's satisfyingly veiled lyrics. Before "Diamond Eyes," from the 2010 record of the same title, Moreno whipped the microphone cable around like a lasso and crotch-thrusted like every rockstar ought. The crowd cheered, pitching beers and breathing columns of dope smoke into the air like dragons.

The Deftones blasted through "Rocket Skates," "You've Seen the Butcher," "Sextape," which is about as close to a slow ballad the Deftones get, "Feiticeira," meaning "witch" in Spanish, and "Digital Bath." After the song, Moreno stopped the show for a moment to mention recently deceased bassist Chi Cheng, who on April 13, 2013, passed away after battling a tough recovery from a car accident he suffered in 2008.

"Poltergeist" built into delicious cacophony from interesting digitized drum clicks. On "Tempest," Moreno played a bright red Gibson SG as he sang, "Turning in circles / Been caught in a stasis / The ancient arrival / cut to the end / I'd like to be taken apart from the inside / then spit through the cycle / right to the end."

The lyrics were chilling due to their resonance with Cheng's post-crash, semi-conscious condition and subsequent death (due to sudden heart failure). The words "stasis" and "the ancient arrival," made the hairs on my neck rise. Moreno has often stated his lyrics are rarely personal and often dream-like and highly obscure, allowing listeners to bring to them what they will, but "Tempest" felt a tad contrary to this aim.

After "Swerve City," "Around the Fur" and "Change (In the House of Flies)," the Deftones encored with "Engine No. 9" and "7 Words." Moreno bowed. I headed out the door, stepping over a drunk hugging a pile of vomit splattered across the sidewalk. I could hear him begging paramedics to help him in warbled, helpless tones as I hiked back to my car. Ah, how the Deftones rock. Clearly too hard for some, but isn't that what makes them so great?

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