Coheed and Cambria/Heaven and Hell
Greek Theatre: Los Angeles, CA 08/11/09
Words/Photos by Justin
(Note, I got no Coheed photos as I mainly took video during their set. As soon as we have net access in our new home, I will add the videos).
Sometimes, the stars and planets align and things work out, despite the fact you didn’t think it actually would. I was disappointed knowing I would not be able to make it to the beautiful Greek Theatre here in Los Angeles to see Coheed and Cambria. They are after all one of my favorite bands, and the thought of them making their first appearance at one of my favorite venues without me was heartbreaking. But $54 pre-service fee is a lot of cash for an opening set, especially when I have seen the band perform six times over the last nine months. Bummed over missing the show, imagine my shock when I got an invite from one of the last people on the planet I would have expected to go with. One of my softball teammates is obsessed with Ronnie James Dio. Knowing I love live music, he hesitated asking me if I was interested, in fear that I would mock him for his love of the pint sized metal juggernaut. I jumped on the chance, and faster than you can say dragon with an afro, I had a ticket for the double bill of Coheed and Cambria/Heaven & Hell.
After getting a front row parking spot (the one downfall of the Greek is its stacked parking, which can leave you in the lot waiting to leave for hours after the final notes have rung out across the venue), I made my way up the hill and past the gates. I dropped some Georges on a cup and the leadoff hitter and I made it to our seats. Within minutes of our arrival, my heroes Coheed and Cambria took the stage. Opening with a raucous “No World for Tomorrow” the band was out the gate like a warning shot during a prison riot. Not missing a beat, the band dove right into another song from their most recent record – “Gravemakers & Gunslingers”. With front man Claudio Sanchez moving across the stage with sudden spastic movements, I quickly realized that this would be a much different opening experience then the Slipknot fiasco back in March.
“In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” is one of my favorites, and as always it did not disappoint. With its epic build up and break downs, the band was winning over the crowd one mind bending solo at a time. After a solid version of “Ten Speed (In God’s Love & Burial)” the upstate NY band launched into another new one “The End Complete”. I was caught off guard as the band used this song to segue into the Iron Maiden (and often covered) classic “The Trooper”. This was the very moment that Claudio and company won over the entire crowd. Mullets and devil horns quickly rose from their seats to headbang in approval.
Perhaps the best thing to result from Neverender (where the band performed all four of their albums over four nights in four cities) is the rebirth of “Al the Killer”. I have gone from feeling I would never see it performed live, to now seeing it three times. This was a good way to follow up the Maiden cover, as folks had a chance to go crazy with the thick palm muted riffs. I wonder how many managed to catch that Sanchez was screaming Die White Girls? The band wrapped up the set with two songs from the IV album. “Welcome Home” kept the audience hypnotized, with bassist Michael Todd deep in the pocket while Sanchez went crazy. The band closed with perhaps the shortest version of “The Final Cut” I have ever heard. While Sanchez and guitarist Travis Stever exchanged solos, I had to stand back and smile. With a few breaks here and there, Coheed have now been on the road for three years, and it truly shows. The band sounded tighter than ever and blew the roof off the stage. Be it four nights or one hour, there is a reason I never miss this band when they hit Los Angeles.
After a quick set change, it was time for Heaven & Hell. I won’t lie, I respect Dio, but for me Sabbath has always been about Ozzy. I was thankful for a chance to see the little legend, and I am always down to hear Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler tear it up. With a backdrop of goblins and a large fence like structure, the four piece (also featuring drummer Vinny Appice) got things off on the right foot by opening with one of their bigger hits “The Mob Rules”. Over the next 90 minutes, the band managed to successfully mix in new numbers like “Bible Black” and “Follow the Tears” with classics like “I” and “Children of the Sea”. Iommi was on all night, ripping up massive solos in songs like “Die Young” and “Time Machine”. It seemed at times that the band just was not clicking 100%. Perhaps age or jet lag, or just one of those nights, but something seemed to just not be right. It was not bad by any stretch of the imagination, just not there. Personally, the highlight of the set for me was the closing number, the name of the band “Heaven and Hell”. Dio didn’t have to encourage the crowd to join in a chant of whoas but he did anyways. Clocking in at approximately 15-20 minutes, this was by far the highlight of the night, especially the fierce instrumental jam about 8 minutes in.
As the band came back for a Neon Knight’s encore, I realized that the pairing of these two bands was really genius. The Future Meets The Past. While Tenacious D may joke that it’s time for Dio to hang it up, the fact I finally got to see the legend with my new school heroes was quite a thrill. Likewise, with the earlier mentioned stacked parking, the decent amount of Coheed fans who made it in were treated to a history lesson in Dungeon’s and Dragon rock. Great pair indeed, if you are lucky enough to have this tour hit your town, check it out.