The Mars Volta / Saul Williams - live in Madison (Cover Artwork)

The Mars Volta / Saul Williams

live in Madison (2003)

live show


Having heard great things about The Mars Volta's live show, I couldn't wait to see if they would live up to expectations. The show was being held at the Barrymore Theater, a 900-capacity venue with 750 seats and a pit area. The Barrymore was a very well-kept place with good sound and atmosphere, as well as a no-smoking policy. Great place to see a show.

At about 8:00, the lights dimmed, and poet Saul Williams walked onto the stage with nothing but a book and a water bottle. He then launched into a very energetic and intelligent couple of poems, before stopping to talk to the audience and crack a few jokes. Now, he may have just been talking into a microphone, but this guy had charisma! His poems were recited with a passion, and he really knew how to keep people entertained. I think that the crowd in general was not sure how they would react to a spoken-word performance, but judging from the applause and attention he got, it went over very well. He was also very gracious and eloquent, thanking the crowd for listening to him and getting his message across in a positive, interesting way. Funny and intelligent. Check him out, it's worth it.

After a 30-minute wait, The Mars Volta took the stage to huge applause, and, without acknowledging the crowd, started a blazing rendition of Roulette Dares. This sounded fantastic! Next was an equally superb version of Drunkship of Lanterns, with some extended solo sections. Twenty minutes in, it was shaping up to be the best show I had ever seen. Then, they started Cicatriz ESP. Now, at more than 12 minutes on the CD, this song, while very good, was a little too long. Unfortunately, they seemed to disagree, playing the song for more than 30 minutes. They played many solos that were technically great during the course of the song, but the slow tempo they adopted for most of the song sort of killed the energy. A pit full of excited kids was turned into a bunch of people just standing there, staring. Yes, they're great musicians, but this song was incredibly long and boring. It just turned into a big blur of a slow groove with Cedric wailing over the top. Next up was Televators, a great song, but a poor choice to follow 30 minutes of slow jamming. By this point, the energy was just about gone. This song was also made overly long. I got excited again when they started my favorite song off the album, Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt. But this too was turned into a slow jam-fest. This ended up being the last song of the concert, and the end of it had the band showing energy again, but it just wasn't enough.

The show, overall, was boring. The Mars Volta often played in ten minutes what they could have done in two. In an hour and a half, they played five songs. They are technically great, but they extended their songs to the point that people just became bored. Not a word was spoken to the crowd. It was like they were playing for themselves, not caring that they had people who paid money to see them. It was a boring, unneccesary set. De-Loused is an amazing album, but it's disappointing how little time they spent playing anything off that album. This was an amazing band that put on a very disappointing show.