Between the Buried and Me and Coheed and Cambria might seem like a slightly incongruous combination of bands, but they are actually two bands who have never worried about critics– they make exactly the type of music they want to make. They are both unique and are damn talented musicians. So, it makes perfect sense. Truthfully, their tour did start as an accident when Coheed and Cambria had the original co-headliners pull out at the last minute, but it ended up becoming a happy accident.
Kicking off the sold-out show at the Wiltern is Russian Circles, a Chicago-based band named after an ice hockey drill, and whose lengthy instrumental numbers are played with stunning skill. They open with “Harper Lewis” from 2008’s Station, in which drummer Dave Turncrantz and bassist Brain Cook lock into tight grooves. Guitarist Mike Sullivan is also unignorable, leading the charge with his swirling leads and rhythms. The trio play only 4 songs in their 30-minute set. but give a good taste of their capabilities. They end the set with a spirited version of “Death Rides a Horse” from 2006’s Enter. They are the perfect beginning to a night of metal that reaches the limits of possibility.
Progressive metal is not a genre of short songs; Between the Buried and Me only play six songs in their hour-long set. This in no way lessens the impact of the band’s smooth, jazzy solos, hammering metal riffs and epic, melodic vocals. Opening with “Astral Bod” and “Lay Your Hosts to Rest,” both from their 2011 albumThe Parallax II: Future Sequence, the sound is so huge that the elaborate art-deco Wiltern Theater suddenly feels small. One major highlight is “Ants of the Sky,” from 2007’s Colors, which surprisingly bursts into a country-western flavored bluegrass section. Somehow, it blends perfectly with the rest of the set.
Another from Colors, “Prequel to the Sequel” is also epic, but not quite as random, and leaves the audience mesmerized. “Extremophile Elite” is one song that, though technically advanced, confuses listens with a xylophone solo. This is a little disappointing, especially with lead singer Tommy Giles Rogers alternating between singing and keyboard duties. In general, the performance is moving, energizing and transcendent, as only a Between the Buried and Me performance can be. Despite the fact that half the crowd is unfamiliar with the music, they are also obviously impressed with the performance. The audience watches, enraptured, for the entire set, as if it is a religious experience of some sort. Coheed and Cambria fans clearly hadn’t known what they were in for.
Coheed and Cambria, supporting their most recent double album The Afterman, has a pretty elaborate alien space ship theme going on with creepy blinking red lights, sirens, signs and corresponding images projected on a screen. The band focuses mainly on new material, from The Afterman: Descension, which was released in February, but also plays with the verve and prowess as if the songs are years old.
They kick off the set with “softLOUDsoft Pretelethal” where singer Claudio Snachez also plays the ukulele, and then instantly dive into “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant.” Sanchez’s notorious falsetto is subdued throughout the evening, making it blend with the music more effectively than it does in recordings. Though past classics like “A Flavor House Atlantic” and “No Word for Tomorrow” produce lively sing-a-longs from the crowd, the main focus from both the band and the fans is the new stuff.
Nothing could top the energy of the closer “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” and the immediate encore of the acoustic ballad “Wake Up,” where the audience is nearly as loud as Sanchez. Coheed and Cambria had some bumps in their recent past, but their gusto is infectious. Many BTBAM fans are clearly sucked in and end up staying for their entire performance. So what seemed like an odd combination at first turned itself into an enthusiastic celebration of the odd with fans of both bands experiencing something surprising and new.