Last week, Rockland rockers Coheed & Cambria took over Terminal 5 in Midtown, Manhattan, playing four sold-out shows to wrap up their four-city “Neverender” series. The final performance, on Saturday, was decentâ€”but honestly, as much as I love the band, I was relieved when the “neverender” came to a close.
A disclaimer: I haven’t seen this band since 2002, when they opened a gritty, no-holds-barred rock show at the 930 club in Washington D.C. Though the band has always melded genres to include even hints of funk and folk, back then, punk, post-hardcore, and metal definitely reigned supreme. The energy level was cranked as high as the amps, as they played about five tracks from their first album, Second Stage Turbine Blade (including “Neverender,” which they almost never play liveâ€”oh the irony!). They had not yet released In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 (including “A Favor House Atlantic,” the song that would rocket them to Billboard fame, and earn them a coveted place in the elusive pop-rock rotation). It was the type of glorious, straight-up-whiskey-rock show that leaves you with a sore neck, ringing ears, and at least two articles of clothing lost in the pit.
I love the concept of this concert. As a former Phish- and Dead-head cohort, I gained appreciation for bands that play a different playlist every night. It feels like a reward to loyal fansâ€”don’t punish us for coming to all your shows by making us listen repeatedly to that same, overplayed radio hit we no longer even like! In the crowd, most of the general admits around me had been to two or more shows. I bought some tickets off a friend for Saturday’s show, expecting the same C&C of years past, even though they were playing tracks from the October 2007 release, No World for Tomorrow.
I wish I had acted like a “real” fan, and gone on an earlier night. At risk of sounding like a cranky indie kid from Williamsburg, I felt that the newest album lacked the raw power of earlier releases, making it impossible for the band to put on a totally rockin show. Of course, there were crowd surfers (props to the gal in the pink tee who rode a wave of groping hands to the front of the sardine-can general admin standing area), but in my Coheed absence, it seems thrashing has been replaced with two-step shuffles and minor head-swaying. The first few songs they played combined a freaky, Volta-esque, sci-fi atmosphere with the same, droning riffs and epic build-ups I thought had been safely left in the ’80s (though I suppose if anyone were to bring back hair bands, Suffern native Claudio Sanchez’s mammoth ‘fro would be my pick).
So what made me want to blog about the show at all?
After the band left the stage, to the sound of a cheering crowd keyed up for an inevitable encore, they changed back into their old selves. (Except, of course, drummer Chris Pennie, who wasn’t in the band last time I saw them, but no worries … the Berklee-certified musician had been hitting harder than everyone else all night, anyway, so no changes were necessary). Toting a very unexpected guestâ€”WARREN HAYNES!â€”they picked up the pace, and in my opinion, rocked out for the first time that night. It seems it took a 48-year old blues, folk, and southern rocker to pick up the pace. The Government Mule frontman wailed on his electric guitar like a teenager on speed, and finallyâ€”finally!â€”Coheed took the hint.
It was worth standing through an entire, mediocre performance to hear that one song. It proved to me that Coheed’s still got itâ€”they just have to flaunt it.