Deftones returned to the Brixton Academy last Wednesday night, for something like their fifth time, and quite casually delivered a ruthlessly efficient, career-spanning set of the sort of venue-leveling riff-monsters that they have perfected across their seven albums.
I say casually but imply no lack of commitment; they are confident and professional in the way that many big U.S. rock bands are, and yet somehow they never seem perfunctory. They still manage (have always managed) not to lose their sense of “this night, this should be special, strike a match, stand well back”.
As an opener “Diamond Eyes” is astonishing, a neat summation of all that Deftones do best, and as they play it, I can’t help but think that it must function like a promise now. “Time will see us realign” goes the chorus, and for the first of many occasions tonight it’s difficult not to think about the absence of original bass player Chi Cheng, who has been in a coma since 2008 following a car accident, and about moving on.
There is no self-conscious pushing of the new record and no coyness about delivering hits either. “Be Quiet and Drive” and “My Own Summer” are played early on and demonstrate a band completely at ease with their past even as they dive into a four-song run of newer material. “Rocket Skates” easily takes its place alongside the classics with its jack-hammer riff, soaring, off-kilter vocal rhythm and killer hook.
“CMND/CTRL” is another monster, a serpentine groove imbued with all the bounce and swagger of a rhythm section that is frankly phenomenal throughout the night. Everybody is moved, and on a cold Wednesday it begins to feel like the weekend just got dragged a little bit closer.
They maintain this pace easily, mixing new songs and classics from every stage of their career (over the night they revisit at least one song from each of their albums), letting up the tempo only around the mid point for intense, euphoric performances of “Sextape”, “Passenger” and “Entombed”.
“Swerve City”, track one off their latest album Koi No Hakan, seems to have been engineered to explode out of the gates and I had presumed that it would be the show starter. Instead it is played right at the point where most bands would be eyeing the exits and wondering if the hotel will get their laundry done in time for check out. It is a massive jolt of renewed energy and one that is immediately followed by “Headup” and “Dai The Flu” from ’97 album Around the Fur, sending the crowd into paroxysms.
Change (if you can survive it) is always a good thing – however it comes about. So few bands are this good for this long and so few of those are still this hungry and palpably in love with what they do that when you see one, there is really nothing else to do but enjoy.