My first introduction to Coheed and Cambria came from a buddy who thought I would like them, not because I was a metal-head at the time by any means, but I was really into Rush. I can’t remember why I listened to Rush incessantly my Junior year of college, but I was convinced they were one of the greatest bands ever. Getty Lee’s Falsetto voice singing Neil Pert’s lyrics about Sci-Fi and Ayn Rand and, uh, the music industry mixed with some pretty rockin’ guitar solos. Well, something about all that just appealed to me at the time.
For whatever reason, my love of Rush didn’t translate to Coheed at the time like my buddy thought it might. It just didn’t click with me. Now, all these years later, I see why he thought that though.When it comes to big sounding sci-fi rock about love and outer space sang with a falsetto voice, Coheed and Cambria pretty much rules this turf now.
It wasn’t until my roommate convinced me to give them another listen earlier this year that I started digging Coheed and Cambria. However, this was a full 10 years and five albums after people started to take notice of these emo-metal-prog rockers. On top of all music they put out that I needed to catch up on, they had been steadily creating a full mythology as well – tri-mages and Monstarr viruses and an incredibly epic attack on Paris – it was badass, but also inaccessible. Even now I get characters confused and forget song names.
I’ve taken a very long and autobiographical way of saying that Coheed and Cambria’s second Stage Turbine Blade tour was the perfect way to fully invest myself in the world that so many other have been living for years. The format is unconventional to say the least – three sets, no opening band, and a full three hours of music. But I’m now convinced that it’s the perfect way for a band who has a lot of material to cover to tour. It might be easy to criticize this as just a way to pull fans back who might not have liked the later material, but I disagree. What happened at Stubb’s Monday night was more of a way for a band and its fans to explore the music that they’ve been making for more than a decade in an engaging way than an admission of decline.
The band first came on stage for an acoustic set. For being known as epic sci-fi metal, Coheed and Cambria does have a fair share of sweet and somber acoustic numbers. The absolute highlight here was“Wake up,” – a song about love as it applies to mass murder. After all, what is more romantic than saying “(I would) kill anyone for you” and meaning it?
An amazing part about this set was the fans’ ability to audibly sing along to every lyric. A lot of the time lead-singer Claudio Sanchez didn’t even have to sing the lyrics himself, he could depend on the fans to make every word heard. This continued the whole time, but nowhere was it more apparent and touching than during the acoustic set. If nothing else Coheed and Cambria deserve recognition for doing what I’ve never seen any other band do, much less a metal one – making a capacity-filled Stubb’s feel like a personal and intimate setting. Every fan probably walked away feeling like it was a personal set.
The second set was the one where they performed debut album Second Stage Turbine Blade from beginning to end. There’s honestly not much to say here (what songs they played and in what order are obvious), other than it was a great gift to give to the fans and its obvious these songs still mean a lot to the band members as well.
Finally, the third and final set (not counting the unnecessary encore), was a collection of songs from the rest of their career. It was a good set and the audience was entirely with them after the Second Stage Turbine Blade run through, but for some reason they entirely ignored songs from the second album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. Even with three hours of music I realize some stuff is going to be left backstage, but that album is a triumph, and, along with Second Stage, their best work.
A lot of the time a band will go on tour and toward the end of the set say something like “we’re so glad you guys paid to come see us, but really this is all about you: the fans!” This is a lie. Concerts are about packing in with a bunch of other people you typically have to tolerate to see some cool music live – it’s all about the band and the music. The fans are just an unfortunately necessary part. But here, it really did feel like this concert was for the fans that had been with this weird band the whole time. Their enthusiasm and dedication to singing every lyric made them just as much a part of the music and the guitars, drums or Claudio’s voice. For a relatively new fan it was a great introduction to a world I plan on spending a lot more time in.
(Coheed and Cambria performed at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas on April 11, 2011)