The Deftones performance last night at Fresno’s Rotary Amphitheater can be distilled down to a single moment; vocalist Chino Moreno is perched over the crowd as it surges forwards, a sea of reaching hands. He thrusts the microphone into the crush of bodies. Someone screams back his words. The music breaks for a beat, Moreno jumps and screeches, high-pitched and powerful. He lands as band explodes back into action.
Variations of that scene played throughout the alternative-metal band’s 90-minute set, which kicked off the current leg of its headlining tour.
Deftones are one of the more progressive bands to come out of the alternative metal scene in the mid-to-late 1990s. Musically, they oscillate between straight ahead guitar-chugging and quieter melodic interludes, held in place by Moreno, who punctuates each song with knee-buckling vocal squeals.
Whether you are sold on Deftones stylistically (I am not quite there yet), the band is a joy to watch. That might seem odd, given the nature of the music, but Moreno comes across like a playful teenager, wrapped up in his own joy, smiling wildly as he skip dances then thrashes over the entirety of the stage, mic chord whipping as he goes.
Here, the staging and light production added an intimacy to the crowded amphitheater. The place seemed smaller, somehow with an almost indoor club vibe.
Deftones’ Warner Bros. label mate Sister Crayon opened the night with a quick set of sparse, atmospheric electronic music that had vocalist Terra Lopez kneeling on the stage in a kind supplication or prayer, while the rest of the band (sans the live drummer) hunkered around a set keyboards, drum machines and samplers. While, the Sacramento group doesn’t have the hard metal edge of Deftones, its music was a thematic fit for the show. I’d love to see them return to Fresno on their own.
Yelawolf played the direct support slot and, by mid-set, had whipped the crowd into its first mosh pit of the night.
The Alabama rapper does in-your-face beer-swilling rap rock that references Johnny Cash and Black Sabbath as much as Eminem, who signed Yelawolf to his Shady Records in 2011. He was backed on stage by a DJ and a lap-steel playing guitarist, to give you a sense of things.
▪ People didn’t seem to be aware there would be other bands playing. That’s my take, given how many people asked me who it was on stage before Deftones came on.
▪ Moreno is a style icon in a black buttoned-up work shirt and black pants, white socks and black shoes (which he stopped to tie early in the set).
▪ The vocalist’s screams really are knee buckling. As in, he knees were shaking as he howled.
▪ Deftone’s drummer Abe Cunningham’s has a large kit. It’s not quite Neil Peart status, but it’s big. He did not do a drum solo. Good man.
▪ Shout out Yelawolf for the “Twist of Cain” riff during “I Wish.” #danziglives