Five Thoughts: Deftones at Chelsea in Las Vegas (April 22)
1. The Deftones mostly play arenas and amphitheaters on this tour, and perhaps a bigger venue would have made more sense for the Las Vegas stop as well. Sure, it’s a treat for 3,000 ticket holders to catch them in a relatively intimate environment, but capacity is well below demand for the band’s first local performance in five years. Fans are spread over three floors at the Cosmopolitan – the casino on the ground floor, the ticket office on the second and the Chelsea on the third – desperately asking for extras. The secondary market entry price for tickets drops throughout the day, but only to $210 before fees as opening act Vowws takes to the stage under vast clouds of smoke accentuating its minimalist and gothic synth-rock.
2. Chelsea’s general admission floor bounces around during gigs, but perhaps never has it done so violently as throughout a 65-minute support slot from French progressive metallers Gojira. Between the pounding death-metal riffs of guitarists Joe Duplantier and Christian Andreu, the destructive drumming of Mario Duplantier and a constant swirling circular pit, the Chelsea feels like a trampoline. “I felt that fucking floor rumble,” Deftones frontman Chino Moreno later said of Gojira during his own band’s set. Gojira’s seventh album, 2021 Courage, alienated some longtime fans by not being as heavy as past material, but the four new songs sounded awfully imposing in Las Vegas. The band are a sight to behold – 21 years of uninterrupted touring and recording with the same lineup have them at the peak of their powers right now.
3. That’s more than can be said for the headliners. Deftones put on their terrific standard performance sonically, but the onstage chemistry is a bit lacking with new touring bassist Fred Sablan playing only his sixth show. The band unceremoniously parted ways with Sergio Vega, who had maintained the low end for the past 13 years, ahead of their first post-pandemic shutdown tour, without any official statement. Vega publicly announced his departure, citing his frustration with the band only offering to renew his contractor status instead of making him a full-time member as he says he was once promised. The long-time Quicksand bassist was a big part of Deftones’ sustained late-career flourish and it’s disappointing not to hear him playing songs from the 2020s. Ohms, the group’s most critically acclaimed work in 20 years.
4. They may still be finding their footing after Vega, but Deftones still get high marks for not letting personnel change limit their versatility. They reference all of the band’s eras in the setlist, featuring at least one song from each of the nine full albums. This includes a handful of diverse-sounding deeper cuts like the mysterious 2010s “Royal” diamond eyes, the melancholy “Beware” of 2008 Saturday night wrist and the heart-pounding “Bloody Cape” from the 2003 self-titled LP. B from a 2003 single.
5. In total, 10 of the 19 songs played by Deftones come from the latter half of the band’s career – and no one in the audience seemed the least bit disappointed. This split into recency, and subsequent crowd approval, is rare with bands coming out of the metal scene, especially ones like Deftones who don’t necessarily sound all that metal anymore. The overwhelming response to the material he helped create inadvertently proves to be the best possible testament to Vega’s time in the band.