Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Mars Volta at Somerset House, London, July 13, 2009



Flying a quadrillion miles to see a concert by a band that I just saw last month within easy driving distance probably seems kind of silly, but I've done much stupider things and besides, it was totally worth it. They were on that night. I thought they were tremendous at the Greek in 2005, but they were even better last week. Also, Cedric finally got some lovely scaffolding he could climb around on, which was cute and made the red band of his Underoos show. He seemed to be feeling fine in general, because he talked to the crowd a lot, unleashed his full repertoire of microphone and microphone-related spazzitry, climbed up on the speakers behind the drumkit, did the Donkey on the floor and on the bass drum, and was in incredible voice.

One thing that's been concerning me about their Octahedron concerts is that they haven't been doing any of the slower songs from the album, like "Since We've Been Wrong" and "With Twilight as My Guide", which are so gorgeous. Maybe they think slow songs will bring things down, but I can't think of anything that would be more of a downer than someone feasting on the carcass of my mother or miming a miscarriage. Have I mentioned the miming? Cedric was doing tons of it, plus some random "chutzpah" gestures even though there aren't any mentions of ball-squeezing in their songs as far as I know. Then again, their lyrics could mean anything. He ran his hand down his inner thigh to mime the miscarriage (so at least he does know what that word means and doesn't just think it means barfing); he waved the microphone cord around for "asp"; he mimed hanging himself when the tables of ringworms were hanging themselves in "Halo of Nembutals". A thought occurs: ringworms don't have necks. Anyway, I'm just glad that he didn't mime the necrophiliacs from "Halo of Nembutals".

I can't remember most of the stuff he said to the crowd, even though when he said it, I told myself specifically to remember because it was funny. Guh, my brain. I do remember that he thanked people who were following them around Europe going to all the festivals, and that the festivals had been kind of shitty because stuff went wrong, but they were always shitty, and then he said something that rhymed, Marge, and you know it rhymed. He did say that one good thing about the festivals was that they'd gotten to see Nick Cave instead of a crappy band whose name I couldn't make out because it sounded like his mouth was stuffed with peanut butter even though it wasn't. So it's good to know that they have good musical taste in addition to having good TV and movie taste. Have I mentioned how much I love them? Because I do. I wish I could carry Cedric and Omar around in a special papoose with one on my front and the other on my back. Anyway, before "Desperate Graves", Cedric said that he went for a walk and came upon some desperate graves, which made it sound like he'd just been out for a stroll in London right before the concert and was going to improvise a little song about it that goes something like this: "I'm walking on dead guys, whoa-oh-oh-oh! I'm walking on dead guys, and don't it feel good? Yeah!" But no, it was just "Desperate Graves" from Octahedron. Fabulous "Desperate Graves" from Octahedron!

He also shared a little story about the writing of "The Widow" in which he described sticking his head into Omar's bedroom in the house they used to share in Laurel Canyon and hearing this music that spoke to the dirty, wrong, dark (but also great!) parts of him, and then in an Australian hotel room, he wrote lyrics for it and it became "The Widow". And then they built the super-collider.

I've mostly talked about Cedric, but he was the talkiest meat of the night, so it seems apt. Also, his voice was just mind-blowingly amazing. I can't even describe it. I've seen them five times now, and I've never heard him sound that good before. But the rest of the band was also incredible! Thomas Pridgen, my hero, had another fantastic prolonged drum solo, during which Cedric and Omar just kind of stood there and watched him, grinning like they were members of the audience. Omar is always kind of in his own bubble when he plays, but he interacted with Cedric a little and was slinging his guitar all over the place. I honestly don't know how he could make a beautiful sound when sliding his guitar upside down, but he did it.

Here's the setlist, why not:

Goliath: I'm surprised they opened with this, since they usually open with "Roulette Dares", but it was still a good choice because it's pretty fast-paced and Cedric can get the freak out in the middle of the song out of the way early on.

Cotopaxi: Cedric was very enunciate-y when he announced this song: "This next song's called CO-TO-PAXI." He seems much more comfortable with the new material now and didn't have to stay near the lyric book the whole time. IFYE, I love that the lyric book is laminated, even though it makes sense, since Cedric spits so damn much. I don't know how Ikey Owens doesn't end up drenched with Cedric's tea and 'Tussin spit at the end of every concert.

Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of): The fucking gig talkers/singers behind us kind of blotted out the beautiful "Exoskeletal junction at the railroad delayed"s, but it's always one of my favorites.

Viscera Eyes: Mmm, Cedric singing in Spanish.

Halo of Nembutals: This is such an earworm song. Amazing performance.

Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus: Tasty frozen Christicles! This went on for almost 40 minutes! I'd heard of 40-minute Mars Volta wank before, and experienced ~30-minute Mars Volta wank myself, but this is like the Holy Grail of Mars Volta concert-going. I love how Cedric improvises with his voice just like Omar improvises with his guitar, just rolling out completely improvised lyrics that are somehow perfect. I particularly like the one about someone having a fallen hem, but you never knew how to fucking sew anyway. At one point during this, Cedric slithered down onto the floor and was presumably just writhing around in his own 'Tussin spit. Omar, looking hilariously bored, stopped playing, stood back resting his arm on an amp, and just kind of stared at Cedric with an "Are you done?" look on his face. Cedric soon pulled himself back up, in a way that made it look like he was dragging himself up from hell by his microphone stand.

Desperate Graves

Ilyena: Cedric explained that the song was dedicated to Helen Mirren, which I already knew, but I thought it was cute that he mentioned the first movie he'd seen her in and stuff. He's a fanboy! Also greet was the way he pronounced "skin", i.e. "skeeeeeee-yin".

Teflon: Cedric left out some of the higher parts on this song for some reason, which was weird because his voice was in such stellar shape.

Drunkship of Lanterns

Luciforms: Mmm, low throaty Cedric. A new kind of Cedric this, really, but I approve!

The Widow

Wax Simulacra

And then it was over.

Doy, I completely forgot to mention the venue, which was Somerset House. It looked much bigger on the website, so I was afraid that the sound would get lost or we'd be too far away, but it's actually pretty intimate (intimate... intimate... [/Peter Griffin echoing]). Also, to get there, we walked across the Waterloo Bridge, and it was a gorgeous evening, with sun glinting off the Thames and a light wind blowing, so I could see the whole view of the river.

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