The Mars Volta – [Live]

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Mars Volta are one of those bands that you either get or you don’t. For the ones that do, their barrage of aural explosions come at you like a meteor shower, but somehow your brain allows you to make sense of it all like after looking at a stereogram for a few seconds. The beautiful picture hidden in the sea of dots separates from the background and you can appreciate it for all its glory. For others, unfortunately, that picture never really appears and they can’t get past the chaos. It’s rather unfortunate, but at the same time, it allows a select group of people the pleasure of being in on something truly unique.
And on the anniversary of 9/11, The Mars Volta came out charging, launching into “Son et Lumiere/Inertiatic Esp,” which brought me back to the time I first stumbled upon the band back in 2003 at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Long Beach, CA. At that point I had no idea who they were, but after about 60 seconds my jaw was on the ground and all I could say was, “Now that’s a fucking rock band!” and was hooked ever since.
The set continued on, and even though Cedric Bixler-Zavala was hitting all the high notes, he seemed to be a tad low energy. I miss the handstands, snaking across the floor, jumping off speakers and killer dance moves. But for all I know, jumping off 8-foot speakers could’ve caused some issues with his meniscus and his doctor told him to stop. He did, however, have at least 35 cups of tea throughout the evening. They played songs ranging their entire catalogue, such as “Viscera Eyes” from Amputechture, “Cotopaxi” from Octahedron, “Goliath” from Bedlam in Goliath, and my personal favorite of the night, “Drunkship of Lanterns.” In the middle of this song, the energy in the cavernous Congress Theater finally started to boil over, and during a mini break Omar Rodríguez-López hit a series of high notes over and over and the rhythm section just rumbled like a mountain crumbling during a cataclysmic seismic shift. When they all came back in together, the crowd went crazy.
More tea, please.
Watching The Mars Volta live is like looking at a wall of security monitors when everyone in the store is shoplifting. Every band member deserves your complete attention, and if you look away you will miss something extraordinary. Whether it’s Ikey Owens and his trademark sunglasses jamming on the keyboard, or drummer Thomas Pridgen’s flawless machine-gun fills, your eyes will be totally satiated no matter where you put your gaze. And even the apparently under-the-weather Bixler-Zavala was still able to rock the mic like Roger Daltrey in his heyday, kicking it off his foot, whipping around the white cord and swinging it around with reckless abandon.
More tea, please.
Before launching into "Eunuch Provocateur,” Bixler-Zavala went into how people were a little annoyed that they were going to start this band, “I don’t know why?” and this is the song they wanted to write and was where they were going musically. Basically the story he told everyone at the end of At the Drive-In, where he felt he was being held back creatively. And for me, the fact that De-Loused in the Comatorium exists in my lifetime, makes me extremely happy they made that decision. That album is just as important as Physical Graffiti, Abbey Road, Pet Sounds or Never Mind the Bollocks.
More tea, please.
The set closed with “The Widow” and “Wax Simulacra,” which ended a solid 100-minute set. It’s interesting to think that 100 minutes of music is barely enough. I think I recall seeing them play a 100-minute song once, so it’s understandable that people felt a little shortchanged. It’s not fair to the band, however, since there really is no time limit we would put on listening to them live. Forever would still not truly satisfy the fans.


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