After work today I had dinner with my friends Asko & Eva and then went to the Cirkus concert venue to hear the Mars Volta. For those of you who have missed them, they’re a US psychedelic progressive rock outfit whose fourth album just entered the US top-10 at #3.
The band was an octet tonight: singer, lead guitar, drum kit, bass and keyboards, plus a rhythm guitarist who also played keyboard, a saxophonist who also played flute and percussion, and a percussionist who also played a keyboard. Yes, there were at least five keyboards on stage.
The set was about 2.5 hours long, covering all albums except the second one, I believe. I would have liked to hear some of the mutated merengue piano from that disc. The playing was intricate and energetic, extremely tightly rehearsed, with very good sound engineering, not too loud — but it was all a bit too much of a good thing for me. I kind of tuned out toward the end. Because really, though I love the Mars Volta, I would never listen to their intense albums for 2.5 hours without pause.
I was surprised to hear a song based on a barely modified version of the bass riff of Black Sabbath’s 1970 track “Hand of Doom”. Can anybody tell me what song that was?
The Mars Volta is one of this decade’s signature rock bands: effortlessly productive and wildly creative. With a multiracial lineup, lyrics in English and Spanish and surrealist imagery both in the lyrics and the visuals, they feel very much like heralds of the future of US rock music. Highly recommended in judicious doses!
Posted an hour and a half after the end of the gig.
Update 23 February: Kat points out that the song with the stolen Sabbath riff is “Goliath” from the Mars Volta’s latest album, Bedlam in Goliath.