02 November 2008
Coheed and Cambria/Cartel/The Stiletto Formal @ Gammage Auditorium 11/2/2008
Let me preface this review by stating that any ire present in this review is not directed at the organizers of this event...they did a fantastic job in my opinion. The ire would be directed primarily at the students. Also no small amount of ire is directed towards the sound guys at a professional venue like Gammage who still cannot mix live music worth a damn. I swear I am so close to no longer attending shows with all of the terrible live mixes I've been experiencing lately.
Although not part of the concert, I feel obliged to mention the fair prior to the show, primarily because there was free Hungry Howie's and Naked Juice and Powerade, which in my opinion makes the fair completely awesome and successful.
The Stiletto Formal were great. Musically, they were not what I remembered, either from an evolution in sound over the last couple years, or a bad memory on my part. I won't say it was a bad change...just a bit disappointing in that it was a lot more towards the trendy experimental indie rock than I remember it being. That being said, they rivaled Coheed and Cambria in terms of on-stage energy and drew the audience in pretty well for an opener.
Cartel were mediocre. I've had at least one of their CDs on my computer for years and never gotten into it so that was expected, but a bit of a let down after Stiletto Formal. It also didn't help that they didn't seem to find their on stage energy until about midway through their set (after a cover of Oasis' Wonderwall, interestingly). They also very shortly broke into Freebird when someone yelled it. Their new music seemed extra uninspired which was too bad...the old stuff (that I have) was much more energetic and enjoyable live.
Coheed and Cambria played only 2 songs from their latest album, a good choice in setlists on their part. In fact, barring the 2 songs from the latest release (which I felt was subpar), the set list was about as good as they could make it...every song I love was in it I think. Their decision to keep the singles till towards the end was interesting, and no small number of students ended up leaving before they even got to them...hooray for ASU student apathy. They started off the set with In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth, one of my favorite songs by them, if not the single favorite. Excellent opener. Then after a foray throughout their catalog they closed with The Final Cut...in the best way possible. Between voice modulated guitar solos, guitar solos played with teeth, and an instrument played by waving your hand in the air, this song had everything. Then after all of that, there were short solos by the keyboardist (who is nothing special) and the bassist (who lightened my criticism of him during his tasteful solo), and finally an epic Chris Pennie solo. Throughout the show, I found myself thinking "Chris Pennie is totally wasted in this band" about every five minutes (Chris Pennie is the ex-drummer for Dillinger Escape Plan). When they started The Final Cut though, I knew I was in for something special...his groove was phenomenal from the outset. Then, after an amazing ten minute drum solo, the entire band rejoined him on stage to finish the song that you had forgotten they never got around to finishing. The one criticism I will give for the performance is that the stage setup was very minimalist, yet since i last saw them they added a keyboardist, two female backup singers, and replaced the drummer and bassist. Yet for all of that, I thought the music did not sound any better this time around, drum solo aside. It seems to me they should spend their money on interesting banners and videos and dump the lackluster vocalists and keyboardist.