Deftones show no signs of slowing down at Rams Head Live

For The Baltimore Sun

Deftones performed to a sold-out Rams Head Live crowd on Friday night, delivering a fast-paced 90-minute set that leaned on classics from 1995 through 2000, much to the delight of the heavily goateed crowd. Midnight Sun contributor Jay Trucker was there.

Shortly after 10 p.m., Deftones -- the California five piece alt-metal band -- hit the stage, opening with the title cut from 2010's "Diamond Eyes." Two more tracks from "Diamond Eyes" followed, the churning "Rocket Skates" and "You've Seen the Butcher." The latter featured the band's signature slow-burning to convulsive and back verse-chorus pattern, to which the crowd responded appropriately, shouting along to Chino Moreno's vocals and surging toward the stage with the occasional crowd-surfer plunging forward to his eminent expulsion. 

While new songs were well-received, two of the band's oldest tracks, "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" and "My Own Summer" prompted more sing/shout-alongs and cell-phone waving than did the band's newer material. 

Veteran frontman Moreno, who played guitar intermittently throughout the evening, best commanded the crowd when free to roam the stage with only his heavily taped microphone. Wearing a red flannel shirt and baggy pants, Moreno catered to every portion of the crowd, perching atop amplifiers stage front before racing toward one end of the stage and back, occasionally wrapping the mic chord around his neck like a noose. 

Guitarist Stephen Carpenter and Sergio Vega (filling in for Chi Cheng) seemed content to give Moreno most of the stage, rarely roaming out from their respective corners.  Along with drummer Abe Cunningham, the band's sound is nearly as tight live as it is on record, even with a bassist who's only been touring with them for a few years. Also, there was a guy on stage with a Mac computer. I suppose he is the DJ.

With few breaks between songs, the band raced towards a late set peak that included "Change (In the House of Flies)," "Passenger" and "Bloody Cape" before a brief break and an encore of "Bored," "Root" and "7 Words." Bad Brains vocalist H.R. (aka Paul D. Hudson), who joined the band for "Right Brigade," returned to trade lyrics with Moreno on "Bored," though his microphone was nearly too low to hear in the heavy mix. For "Passenger," a song recorded with Tool's Maynard James Keenan, Moreno encouraged audience participation to fill in the missing vocals.

The band's platinum days may be behind them, but they show no signs of slowing down, either in the studio or on the road. With a new album, "Koi No Yokan," due next month, Deftones' current tour will  continue into 2013. Though they've often been lumped in with late '90s mook-rockers, the act enjoyed a rare level of critical respect and have developed a dedicated fan base who came to the show ready for a night of well-worn songs that have yet to gather rust.

Before the Deftones, Scars on Broadway played a well-received set. The band features Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan of System of a Down. Accordingly, they sound like System of a Down minus frontman Serj Tankian's distinct howl. If you hear a Scars on Broadway song and think one of the lyrics sounds like the tongue-twisting Mary Poppins tune "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," that's because it is. The band presented a solid set but Malakian and company cannot replace the manic charisma of Tankian, and given the band's similar dance-beats-meet-thundering-strings sound, it is hard not to make the comparison.

Jay Trucker is a frequent contributor to Midnight Sun. He teaches at the Community College of Baltimore County in Dundalk and blogs at He last reviewed Seether at Pier Six Pavilion. This post was edited by Wesley Case.

Deftones' setlist:
"Diamond Eyes"
"Rocket Skates"
You've Seen the Butcher
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
My Own Summer (Shove It)
Digital Bath
Knife Prty
Engine No. 9
Right Brigade
Change (In the House of Flies) 
Bloody Cape

Root7 Words

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