When the Deftones released their 1995 debut record, Adrenaline, the metal world was already seeing a changing of the guard, as bands wearing tank tops, baggy shorts, and spiked hair were redefining the genre.
While the Deftones were major players in putting the term "nü metal" on the map, it was Korn that were at the forefront of the rap/rock movement, and it seemed that any band playing that brand of music got unfairly compared to them. What those critics didn't realize at the time was that the Deftones would go on to be one of the most important bands of the past two decades, and that they'd eventually shed the nü-metal tag with a catalog of music that defied that label.
As consistent as they've been with each of their releases over the years, the band in a live setting has always been a different story. They can either mesmerize you, even leave you a little breathless, or they can make you scratch your head like they did at last year's Monster Mash show, where they were as flat as can be.
They brought their lengthy catalog to Mesa Amphitheatre on Wednesday night, and anyone in the Valley who has followed the band over the years knows it's been the best venue to host the band. From the opener "Rocket Skates" until the rain started to fall at the end of the night, Chino Moreno and company brought a night that fans won't forget anytime soon. Due to Mesa's early curfew law, the band hit the stage around 8:20 p.m. and blasted through a 19-song set that not only featured singles like "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" and "Change (In the House of Flies)," but also tracks that die-hard fans could appreciate.
Moreno was on fire during tracks like "Diamond Eyes" and "Swerve City" as he stormed the stage like a man trying to make up for his last visit to Phoenix. "Kimdracula" from 2006's Saturday Night Wrist made you feel like the kid on Christmas that found that one last present under the tree.
The lighting and production really added to the band's moody textures throughout the night during tracks like "Passenger" (no, there wasn't a Maynard James Keenan surprise appearance) and "Knife Party." They paid homage to Prince when Moreno sang the chorus of "Purple Rain" during the intro of "Bored," and to Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man" during the closer, "Engine No. 9."
Phoenix fans have had a love affair with the Deftones for more than two decades now, and if the band continues to put the kind of music we've become accustomed to, this relationship is far from over.
Last Night: Deftones at Mesa Amphitheatre.
The Crowd: It was a mixed bag of metal types, art kids, and youngsters.
Personal Bias: I've seen them live close to 20 times since 1995.
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Overheard: "This is the best I've ever heard them."
Random Notebook Dump: There should be more shows at Mesa Amphitheatre. There isn't a bad seat in the house.