The past is a different band

DeftonesHey, you know how I’m always banging on about how much I hate nostalgia? Oh, you’d not noticed. Okay, good, forget I said anything.

This week I’ve been getting a bit nostalgic. It all began with Eddy Temple-Morris’ column for CMU this week, in which he wrote about the band that changed him from a person who liked music into a fully-fledged, card-carrying music fan. In his case, it was Japan.

Eddy writes: “Japan were not the first band I ever heard, nor the first record I bought, but much more importantly, they were the first band I fell in love with. Think back to the first band you were SO into, that you would have done anything for them. I’ve heard it said ‘a good song will make you late for work, but a great song will make you quit your job’. What a brilliant observation. That’s what I’m talking about here, the most powerful thing, FIRST LOVE”.

So, I wracked my brain to think who this might have been, who were ‘my Japan’? There are a few contenders. Red Hot Chili Peppers took control of my mid-teens, and later Korn had a big effect. But I think the band Eddy is getting at is REM. I don’t remember at what age exactly they became such a big deal for me – around twelve or thirteen years old, I think – but I do remember spending quite some time buying up their back catalogue (there was a lot of it) and reading books and articles about them.

But Eddy goes on, remembering how his favourite band appearing on ‘Top Of The Pops’ “marked something every bit as powerful and emotional as the beginning of your first love. It marked the end of my first love. I felt bitterness, betrayal, I felt jealousy and abandonment, because MY beloved band had now become everybody else’s love”.

I never had that moment with REM. Well, not because they became famous, anyway – they were already famous by the time I started listening to them. We have fallen out over their refusal to split up, though. But that goes back to my wish that bands would realise more often when it’s time to stop, and really we’d grown apart before then (this goes for RHCP and Korn, as well).

There was another band on my list of potential first loves: Deftones. Obviously, they came much later than REM, but they’re a band I’ve loved since their first album, and one I’ve never really fallen out with. Sure, we grew away from each other for a while, I admit. When they released ‘Saturday Night Wrist’ in 2006, I thought that was the end, and they’d reached the point where they were simply diluting the good work done with their earlier releases. But I’ve never stopped listening to those older records, whereas I have with so many other bands I loved in my teens (including all mentioned above).

Okay, less so the first two albums, but 2000’s ‘White Pony’ certainly still goes through periods of heavy rotation. And when they released their sixth album, ‘Diamond Eyes’, this year, it appeared that the downward trend had been reversed. If one positive has come out of bassist Chi Cheng being in a coma for the last two years, it seems it’s that the rest of the band have refocused on their music.

They may not be my actual first love, but getting a bit reflective about them is relevant because on Wednesday night I went to see them play at Brixton Academy. And this is where the nostalgia really kicks in. It was almost a decade since I’d last seen them and before they even hit the stage the memories of that last show came flooding back – the short lived London Arena where it took place, a time when Linkin Park were still a lowly support act, and, best of all, my housemate coming to the gig with me, only to realise that not only did he not like Deftones, but he had quite a strong dislike of metal as an entire genre. I think it had been his idea to go, too.

But nostalgia can be a terribly thing. It can cloud the judgement when misplaced. That’s what I don’t like about it, see? When it stops you from moving forward. Part of the reason I hadn’t seen Deftones play for so long was because I was worried they might not be any good any more. I was quite happy to leave them behind (as a live band, at least) and get on with finding newer acts with whom I had no history. But in the end my curiosity got the better of me, fuelled by the return to form of ‘Diamond Eyes’. I decided to risk my memories being tarnished.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. I suspect my fears would have been realised a few years ago, but now, like on record, the band are completely focused. Frontman Chino Moreno still runs around, works the crowd into a fit and delivers superb vocals. For ‘Elite’, he came down off his platform constructed at the front of the stage and screamed the chorus right into the faces of the front few rows, eventually crawling up on top of their raised hands as the song grew in intensity. That’s still exciting when it’s not happening to you directly.

The polar opposite of Chino, guitarist Steph Carpenter stood almost perfectly still for the whole show, long hair obscuring his face as he pumped out that deep, controlled guitar sound that rumbles through your bones. And I can never say enough in praise of Abe Cunningham’s drumming; his signature style and the off kilter rhythms he plays on the hi hat add so much to the songs (for me anyway), it’s impossible to imagine any other drummer playing them.

Over the course of an hour and a half they played hit after hit after hit, opening with ‘Rocket Skates’ from the new album, and moving through classics like ‘My Own Summer’, ‘Be Quiet And Drive’, ‘Knife Party’, ‘Bloody Cape’, ‘Feiticeira’, ‘Change (In The House Of Flies)’, Passenger’, ‘Minerva’ and ‘Seven Words’. Nothing, thankfully, from ‘Saturday Night Wrist’, which suggests we share similar views on their past.

It was a brilliant show, not for nostalgic reasons (well, not entirely), but because is were a great performance and perfectly compiled setlist. Of course, afterwards it brought out nostalgia’s best friend – the realisation of my advancing age. Last time I saw Deftones I spent the show in the mosh pit. This time I stood well back and clapped politely. Then afterwards I complained that my back hurt from standing up for so long.

Now, where are my slippers?

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