The Mars Volta

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author PP date 02/12/09 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

A decent size crowd had gathered to Store Vega to once again witness one of the most artistically complete bands on the planet bring their latino-influenced experimental prog rock to Denmark for the third time in less than two years. The night was far from sold out - a little over half full I'd say - but still had enough people in attendance for an intense atmosphere to cook up as the night progressed. Typically to The Mars Volta tours, no support band was brought along, and instead the band started their set already around half past 8, signifying that another lengthy set of at least two hours was to be expected.

The Mars Volta

As a positive surprise to all older Mars Volta fans, the band opted to start their set with the first two songs from "De-Loused In Comatorium": "Son Et Lumiere", which is effectively an introduction to "Intertiatic ESP". Unfortunately since Cedric insists on not warming up his vocals prior to the shows, his vocals were repulsive to say the least, because they were horribly off tune. Hearing him whine and wail to the microphone was painful for everyone at the show, but luckily he adjusted quickly, developing song-by-song until around half way to the show, where his voice finally fell into character, and from then on, the all-encompassing The Mars Volta experience (tm) took over.

You see, The Mars Volta experience is what I've started to dub the band's club shows. The first couple of tracks usually make you feel excited, and then you start feeling a little bored because of the lengthy improv sessions in between and during songs, that occasionally take as long as 10 minutes ("Cicatriz ESP" was extended by 10 minutes in the middle). Whether you'll enjoy the rest of the show will largely depend on your ability to adjust your mind to get into the same frame of reference as Mr Bixler & Rodriguez-Lopez, known as "the zone", where everything around you stops existing, and you give yourself fully to the enthralling experience that their experimentalist music emits as a whole. If you're "in the zone", you stop focusing on single songs and instead enjoy the rich detail and free-form improvisation that surrounds especially Omar's guitar playing, and start noticing how every detail is a tiny piece in the overall picture; that of artistic perfection. It essentially feels like The Mars Volta are slowly painting Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in each two hour performance. If you're able to connect with the band on that sort of level, then you don't even want them to stop in between songs or to speak to the crowd. You just want to watch as the band crafts an image of sonic perfection brick by brick, highlighted by things like ambient bass solos and other neat instrumental sections. In other words, it's music as a piece of art than a real concert in the traditional sense.

On the other hand, sometimes it's difficult to shift your consciousness to Mars Volta's level, and if that happens, then you're shit out of luck and will experience extensive sections to the show where you're feeling left out, bored, or worse, both at the same time. You'll still be able to enjoy Omar's magnificent guitar playing and his erratic movement around the stage, and Cedric's occasional microphone tricks (swinging the mic around, dangerously handling the mic stand in all possible wrong ways etc), and find comfort in the band's poppier material, which actually dominates the set tonight: only one song from "Bedlam In Goliath" and "Amputechture" find their way into the 14 track setlist tonight, with majority of material focusing on "Frances The Mute" and the band's newest album "Octahedron". But if that's the case you'll also find yourself missing Theodore behind the kit as Pridgen by no means is able to follow up on Theodore's legacy while still being a good drummer.

Because of the two entirely different planes of experiencing each The Mars Volta show, it's always difficult to objectively rate the experience. There are always going to be people who are in an ecstatic state as described above, and other people who just "don't get it". Tonight, I found myself drifting in and out of the two zones, mostly because I was feeling a bit tired and two hours of intense concentration on the band's music can be a bit much if you're not completely fresh. Still, the show was very good, albeit not the best Mars Volta show I've personally seen.

Setlist:

  • 1. Son Et Lumiere
  • 2. Inertiatic ESP
  • 3. Cotopaxi
  • 4. L'Via L'Viaquez
  • 5. Goliath
  • 6. Eriatarka
  • 7. SInce We've Been Wrong
  • 8. Cicatriz ESP
  • 9. Halo Of Nembutals
  • 10. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore
  • 11. Teflon
  • 12. Viscera Eyes
  • 13. The Widow
  • 14. Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)

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