6 Dates. That’s all COHEED AND CAMBRIA are over in the UK for on this run. They rarely overstay their welcome outside of the States anyway, but this is a very short UK Tour, in support of their mesmerising new album “Vaxis Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures” released on October 5th.
They are now Academy venue regulars. They often sell them out as well. But it might have been the weather, or it might have been because it was a Sunday, but the Academy in Birmingham tonight was oddly only about ¾’s full. This is criminal for a band of this quality. Their live show has long been considered one the tightest and well-constructed in rock music. Indeed when I saw them here 5 years ago in support of the Afterman albums the place was heaving. Uncomfortably so.
This situation does not play into the hands of opening act CHON, who, in my opinion, have a difficult task in opening up this evening. However, they really do not help themselves.
CHON are something of an acquired taste. They’re an instrumental 4-piece from California and whilst their clean-cut brand of technical prog rock will wow a lot of people, it quite simply doesn’t work for this show. They are the wrong band in the wrong place and the almost confused reception to their music shows this. They get polite applause for all of their tracks and there are clearly some CHON fans in attendance tonight, but they would have been better suited to another tour, probably alongside bands of a more technical, maybe heavier nature than COHEED AND CAMBRIA. Let’s not take anything away from their musicianship, which is excellent. The widdly guitar styles of Erick Hansel and Mario Camarena flow through the venue and they are superbly backed up by the rhythm section of Nathan and Esiah Camarena. But the fact they don’t talk to their crowd and the crowd isn’t really sure how to take them means the audience is barely warmed up for tonight’s headliners.
This doesn’t seem to bother COHEED AND CAMBRIA at all though. As the lights dim and ‘Prologue’, the opening salvo from ‘The Unheavenly Creatures’ begins playing through the PA, a deafening roar comes from the floor. This great din only gets louder as Claudio Sanchez (Guitar & Vocals), Travis Stever (Guitar & Backing Vocals), Zachary Cooper (Bass & Backing Vocals) and Josh Eppard (Drums) emerge on to the dimly lit stage before breaking into a thunderous rendition of “The Dark Sentencer”. It is one hell of a way to announce your arrival in the West Midlands.
Claudio has never been one for talking to the crowd. Whilst this bothers some folk, you often have to take this trait on a band by band basis. For some it’s just weird, others it works for. It works for Coheed. They bound straight in to “Here We Are Juggernaut” from ‘Year of the Black Rainbow’ and then on to “Devil in Jersey City” from their first album ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’. No notes missed, no word not yet sung along to by the now fervent crowd.
Bringing things back up to the present day, the band now launch into the title track from their new release, with a slight twist. There is no guitar upon Sanchez’s shoulders. He is now a frontman proper for this track and it seems to unshackle him somewhat as he prowls around the stage, followed by his billowing mass of hair. Despite the album only having been out 9 days, Coheed’s loyal followers have already nailed the words for this one as they chant the “run, run, run, run, run like a son of a gun!” back at the encouraging front man. We’re off to a flyer here.
Coheed’s second album, ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’ (widely considered their best effort) turned 15 years old this year and it feels like the next section of their setlist is dedicated to this as they reel off 4 tracks from the album without drawing breath. To make things better for this avid fan, they’re the four I would have wanted them to play as well.
They begin with a truly spellbinding version of “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3”. This is an 8-minute long song, but it doesn’t feel like it. It is crammed full of “whoa’s” and a huge chorus shout-along of “Man your own Jackhammer” ensues with the crowd. Drummer Josh Eppard is all limbs in this tune, flailing about during a break in the middle with a huge drum fill. Given that in the grand story of the Amory Wars saga, this track is intended to signify a war taking place, you get the feeling that the crowd would go to war for Coheed. Music often has a way of making you feel emotional, this song certainly does it for me.
Up next are ‘The Crowing’ and ‘Blood Red Summer’, the latter still makes me smirk today with it pop rock styling. At this point the band tease something from the “Afterman…” albums but instead break in to ‘A Favour House Atlantic’ which once again brings on a huge audience led sing-along for the “Good eye, Sniper…” and “ bye bye beautiful, don’t bother to write” lines. The crowd are now firmly in Coheed's grasp.
It’s a nod to the quality of Coheed's albums that it takes 50 minutes for a song from ‘Good Apollo I…’ (to give it it’s shortened title) to make an appearance. Again, a huge sing-along, “Ten Speed (Of Gods Blood and Burial) gets the crowd bouncing before the band return to their new record with a stunning rendition of recent lyric video single “The Gutter”. Possessing a colossal chorus, this track has the crowd leaning their heads back shouting along in utter delight.
The surprise song inclusion of the evening goes to “Wake Up”, also from ‘Good Apollo I…’ which sees Sanchez brandish an acoustic guitar and encourage another sing-along, which of cause would have happened without his encouragement.
The lone track from their last album ‘The Colour before the Sun’ is “Island” which is dispatched with total aplomb before they close their set with recent single “Old Flame”. Again, whoa’s aplenty.
The room goes dark. Red lights bringing a dark atmosphere across the venue. Chants of “Coheed, Coheed, Coheed, Coheed” begin before the triumphant foursome reappear back on stage again. Sanchez is handed his Gibson Double Neck which in itself gets a cheer. The crowd know what is coming next.
The only really appropriate adjective for this version of “Welcome Home” is “aggressive”. It’s Coheed’s heaviest tune. A monstrous riff, epic solo’s, thudding drums and bass and of course, Sanchez’s trademark voice. Mosh pits break out for the first time and the crowd lose their minds. As the final chord strikes amidst a haze of stage smoke, the lights dim and when the house lights come up, Coheed are gone. The main room of the Birmingham Academy complex totally laid to waste.
Walking around outside hearing people say things like “Why did that have to end?!” and “They should’ve played for 2 hours” gives you an idea of what the band do to a crowd at live shows. They could’ve done another 90 minutes on top of what they did and everyone would still be there. A reminder at this point that they played nothing off either of the “Afterman…” albums, and nothing from “Good Apollo II: No World for Tomorrow”. Those three albums contain some absolutely stellar material.
But you’re not really talking (or thinking) about this fact. Instead, you’re left wishing for the next Coheed show to come around. They’re a band that is timeless. They are near enough genre-less. This means nobody is going to get bored of them any time soon. As long as the band continues to tell their story, people will continue to buy it and continue to come to their gigs.
This is a good thing. The world needs COHEED AND CAMBRIA. YOU reading this review need COHEED AND CAMBRIA. If they aren’t in your life go and do yourself a favour, pick it all up from the start and introduce yourself to what will become your new favourite band.
The Dark Sentencer
Here we are Juggernaut
Devil in Jersey City
In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
Blood Red Summer
A Favour House Atlantic
Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood and Burial)
Welcome Home (Encore).
Check out the band here:-