Coheed and Cambria + Circa Survive: 27 April 2010 – Houston

Circa Survive

I walked into Warehouse Live to find the club packed on a Tuesday night. Coheed and Cambria brought out the fans in the middle of the week. Second opener Circa Survive had just started their set, and their fans were out in force as well. This segment of the crowd sang along enthusiastically with all of their favorites and even chanted “Circa! Circa! Circa!” at one point. I tried to get into it, but couldn’t quite manage. The band plays technically proficient, hard-hitting music with a decent amount of variety between the songs. But it’s frontman Anthony Green that’s the band’s major problem. His high-pitched emo-style singing should be one of Circa Survive’s main hooks, but he was consistently off-pitch throughout the entire set. Every time Green tried to hit a high note, it was dreadfully out of tune. But the kids either didn’t notice or didn’t care. I know that Green has a considerable following, so maybe he sounds better on studio recordings.

Either Coheed and Cambria use better equipment than most bands or Warehouse Live has done something subtle but effective to their sound system. Usually the sound at this venue is muddy and the vocals tend to get buried, but everything from Circa Survive and Coheed came through loud and clear. Coheed and Cambria opened their 90-minute set the same way their new album Year of the Black Rainbow starts; the ambient introduction of “One” followed by the pummeling “The Broken.” The crowd sang along with every word of every song during the set, despite the new album being only two weeks old. In contrast to Circa Survive, frontman/guitarist Claudio Sanchez’s voice was in great shape, and his usual mop of giant curly hair swirled around him all night. “Here We Are Juggernaut”, one of Black Rainbow‘s strongest songs, was equally powerful live. But the beginning of the set was just a warm-up for the crowd until the band dipped into their back catalog. “Al the Killer” whipped them up into a frenzy while “Everything Evil” was a sing-along highlight of the night. “Evil” never seems to leave the band’s set, but it’s still a bit amazing how the audience sings along with every knotty, difficult turn of phrase in the song, which doesn’t even have a hook until the very end.

A couple more tracks from the new album were followed by another of the band’s best songs, “Three Evils.” This one hasn’t been in the setlist on a regular tour since 2005, so it was great to see it performed again. Next up was the new ballad “Pearl of the Stars”, a good song that was well-placed in the set, giving the band and crowd a bit of a break. After this was the surprise appearance of “Time Consumer” and an intense performance of “No World for Tomorrow.” The band brought it home with the highly technical “Guns of Summer”, an excellent showcase for drummer Chris Pennie. Predictably, they closed with “A Favor House Atlantic” and “In Keeping Secrets of the Silent Earth: 3.” The former inspired another huge sing-along, and the latter is the perfect closer, which is why the band almost always closes with it.

Despite being only a week into the tour, Coheed and Cambria didn’t sound like they were out of playing shape in the slightest. Pennie’s drum theatrics mesh nicely with Sanchez and Travis Stever’s guitar heroics, while bassist Mic Todd stands stoically at stage left. Todd, though, always comes out looking great because he’s about the only band member that will talk to the crowd during the show. As the band left the stage after “In Keeping Secrets”, the audience dutifully cheered until someone started the Houston staple chant, “One more song! One more song!” This quickly morphed into cheers for a dozen different numbers and chants of “Coheed! Coheed!” The band returned with an encore featuring Black Rainbow‘s other ballad, “Far”, which lost a bit of its unique sound in the live show. The chunky riff of “Welcome Home” came next, and I was sure that the concert would finish up with the usual endless-jam performance of “The Final Cut” or its spiritual successor, Year of the Black Rainbow‘s title track. Instead, the band pulled out a rarity, the complex prog-rock epic “21:13.” Having this song finish the show left me, at least, with a much better feeling overall than having to sit through (or bail on) an awkward, forced jam session.