Taking to a stage adorned with Mexican flags and a huge backdrop of album artwork depicting rats with glowing eyes, The Mars Volta take to the stage.
Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez plugs in and begins a frenetic solo, accompanied by Jon Theodore on drums and Juan Alderete on bass. Cedric Zavala (formerly Bixler) stands stage right, performing a strange sidestep shuffle as the band warm up.
Abruptly, Omar begins the intro to 'Roulette Dares (This is the Haunt Of)' and the crowd cheer wildly. Anyone who has ever been familiar with At The Drive-In (Omar and Cedric's previous band) will be used to Cedric and Omar's frantic, insane stage movements, and as the song kicks off, Cedric throws himself to the floor, his body writhing like a snake. A split second later he is throwing his mic stand to the rafters, catching it effortlessly and whirling it around, flicking the mic into his waiting hand. Omar throws and contorts his body in a way that makes the watcher think "how can he be doing that?". He spins, drops, shakes, and flings his guitar around his body and the stage, while still managing to play the song note-perfect. As a sharp contrast, bassist Juan does not move from his spot next the drumkit for the entire show.
The Mars Volta are famed for their live shows, and are known to extend their already epic songs into 20 minute plus jams. After such a sharp snappy intro tonight, they seem to lose the crowd with the next song, 'Eriatarka'. A guitar solo (lit up by a mis-guided follow spot clearly being operated by a seven year old) introduces the song, and this particular tune lasts around thirty minutes. While The Mars Volta's musicianship cannot be questioned (all members are exceptional in their own particular field), this type of playing fails to keep the crowds attention. From my high up vantage point, I can see that the crowd below me don't tend to get into the songs until they reach a point that is actually on the record 'De-Loused In The Comatorium'. During the improvised sections, the crowd seem to lose interest and even talk amongst themselves. As much as I love this record and band, I found myself getting a little bored of watching Omar fiddling with his guitar (and arsenal of effects that make the guitar sound as far from a guitar as possible), and Cedric singing occasional 'ohhhhhhh-ohhhhh's.
One thing the band should be complimented on is their ability to take their already amazing record, and manage to pull it off live. A dedicated team of stage crew is on hand to supervise constantly changing guitar and vocal effects, and the record's sound and atmosphere is faithfully reproduced tonight.
We are also treated to several minutes of bass soloing on behalf of Juan, during which he showed off his wide variety of effects.
At one point in the show, Cedric stands upon the crowd, singing. As soon as he did so, around 15 cellphones lit up in the crowd below me, all trying to photograph this moment. At several points in the show, he scaled the speaker stacks, but then half-heartedly climbed down again, destroying everyone's expectations of a mid-song leap. During the part in 'Cicatriz ESP' where the helicopter-like sound effect makes it's appearance, Cedric let out a huge scream, boosted by effects, that shook the entire room, a cool moment.
'Televators' was a great song, played for the majority by Isaac (keyboards) and some eventual drum and bass accompaniment. I even heard some singing along to this track, which made me wonder where everyone else was getting the lyrics from (they don't come packaged with the CD).
Overall, the band proved that they can replicate their recorded sound beyond expectations live, but they often slip up when choosing to extend the songs live. People in the crowd often seemed unsure what was going on for the majority of songs, and only seemed to get into songs when a 'safe ground' such as a chorus or other familiar moment was reached.
Setlist: (in no real order)
Drunkship of Lanterns
Roulette Dares (This Is The Haunt Of)
Take The Veil, Cerpin Taxt