By E.M. Merius
On Wednesday night, outside of our nation’s capital (currently the land of intrigue and triple speak), at the glistening and gilded MGM National Harbor Casino, Chino Moreno and the rest of Deftones showed how a pigeonholed rock-rap band ascended to Legacy Act status. While the DJ skips and sincere raps may have been the source of well-placed ridicule, Deftones have stood long enough to enjoy the old becoming new and in vogue again.
I came to the Deftones in 2000 during their breakout period. “Change (In the House of Flies)” was a defining single for me in multiple ways. It was the first time I listened to anything approximating metal, it was my freshman year of high school and it was the song I most tie to my coming out (to myself at least). In the early aughts, in sweltering south Florida, after I turned that corner, I was never able to go back. Sure, like any confused young man I would flirt with Brandon Boyd and his merry band of misfits from Calabasas, CA, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with their NYC cool and anyone who could thrill me with faux contemplative instrumental tracks (looking at you Department of Eagles). Despite my fickle and wandering heart, I always came back to the depth of the Deftones.
Until last night, my devotion was never consummated with the act of seeing them live. In my defense, I’m a 5’10″ black man built like a college D3 running back. Society made it clear that nothing about my experience and perceptions would make a show like that “my scene.” Thankfully, I was thoroughly wrong. The MGM show was a homecoming of black, white and brown (I may have actually seen a purple person). It was the communal experience I didn’t know I needed.
Spanning their 22 year, 8 album discography, Deftones were able to embody the cavernous MGM National Theater and give it the intimacy of a house party. With the passing of Chris Cornell, Moreno (with honorable mention to the aforementioned Boyd) may have the best voice in angry rock, both in muscularity and range. Through early favorites like “Elite,” “Lhabia,” and “Headup” the seasoned Moreno energized the crowd with true to album roars and guttural moans, alternating between disembodied presences, to the master of ceremonies performing a one-man Cha Cha on the nearest amplifier. Over the course of a concise hour and ten minutes, the set ebbed and flowed from deep cut to Top 40 hit, until arriving to “Change…”. In that moment, through crescendo after cresenodo of the chours, I was home.
Rather than rest on their laurels, the band pushed into the later catalog with “Phantom Bride,” “Rosemary” and “Rocket Skates.” The seemingly unending energy of Moreno was a spectacle to behold, specifically during “Back to School – Mini Maggot.” He was able to bound the entire length of the stage and finish in an extended crowd interaction, a decided non-surf. The night ended in “Bored” and a wholly surprising rendition of “Teething” from The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack.
As a band heading into their third decade without signs of wear, I will say, “God Bless you all/For the song you saved us.”