An Evening With The Mars Volta
The golden rule of live music: give the crowd what they want. Play the material they know and love. It’s a well documented fact that if you play more than three new songs at the expense of the hits, you can expect the crowd to quickly turn hostile as cries of “Play _________ you assholes!” permeate the venue and kill the atmosphere.
This is one of music’s ten commandments handed down by the rock gods and the best performers have abided by this holy scripture.
Unless you’re the Mars Volta.
Last week at the Palace in Melbourne, the Mars Volta delivered one of the epic 90 minute sets for which they’re renowned and loved for. The only difference was that 70 minutes of this set was comprised entirely new, unreleased material that none of the punters had heard before. And the crowd loved every minute of it.
You would expect that with such a lopsided new music to hits ratio, that the fans would
eventually lose patience and start getting restless. Instead Cedric Bixler-Zavala never gave them a chance to become indifferent as he swept up the crowd with his energy and enthusiasm. Long regarded as a compelling front man, Bixler-Zavala was in fine form as he alternated between fits of manic intensity and morose introspection as the music dictated.
As far as the new material goes, the Mars Volta’s forthcoming record looks set to be a big return to form after the mellow and frankly boring sounds of Octahedron. More in tune with The Bedlam in Goliath, the new tracks that were unveiled by the band had the crowd feeling as though they were riding a rollercoaster in the dark whilst wearing a blindfold- they had no idea what was going to happen next but they loved every second of it.
Apparently the new album has already been recorded but won’t see the light of day until 2012 due to the machinations of the band’s label. Australian fans should feel privileged to have gotten such an intimate preview.
Although the antics of Bixler-Zavala demand your attention, the real star of the show is guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Rodriguez-Lopez is the eye of the storm. Despite the wild, psychedelic nature of the Mars Volta’s music, it is amazingly well controlled. The reason for that is Rodriguez-Lopez. The music flows through him and the rest of the band follows his instructions with the trust that comes from years of familiarity.
Watching Rodriguez-Lopez perform is a voyeuristic experience. In a packed out venue, Rodriguez-Lopez plays as though he is completely oblivious to what’s going on around him; the crowd, the lights, the cat calls, it’s all irrelevant. To him the only thing that matters is the music. In a room of full of people, Rodriguez-Lopez cuts an isolated yet content figure. Whether he’s performing in a stadium or in his garage it’s clear that he’d play the exact same way. For a man of few words Omar Rodriguez-Lopez still manages to truly bare his soul to the audience through his guitar. He lives in his own world and for a couple of hours he gives others the opportunity to look inside. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is one of the most compelling and innovative performers in music today and judging by the material that was showcased at this set, he remains at the top of his game.