Coheed and Cambria @ Hammerstein

Coheed And CambriaWhat do you get when you take two up-and-coming rock acts with dramatically different musical styles and put them together on a co-headlining tour? Do you get the best of both worlds or an inevitable disaster? Well, this was the issue that accompanied the recent Coheed And Cambria/Avenged Sevenfold tour. Coheed’s instrumental perfection and slightly restrained performance style was pinned up against A7X’s balls-out stage-show and mediocre musical compositions. A victor had to be determined.

The final night of the tour began with A7X, who were coming off the previous night’s headlining slot where a quarter of the crowd left before their set began. Such a morale defeating experience could have easily put a damper on their performance, but A7X would not fall so easily. Opening with their current single, “Beast & The Harlot,” A7X delivered a performance that would have undoubtedly received a nod of approval from the bands whose styles were so obviously mimicked.

Panties from young female fans adorned the stage and concert floor in such massive quantities you could swear you were at a Mötley Crüe concert. While influence was taken from many artists, none was as dominating as that of Iron Maiden. From the back-to-back guitar solos, to the Piece Of Mind Meets The Trooper backdrop, to the massive Eddie-like winged skull prop that rose at the close of the set, A7X had clearly studied from the master. The question in turn is, did they master the art?

A7X had a lot running in their favor. The fans were extremely responsive and crowd-surfed with almost no interruption throughout their performance. Vocalist M. Shadows’ alpha-male performance style was so domineering it practically forced attendees to stand alongside the band and cheer, whether they wanted to or not. And the entire band, bassist included, rampaged on stage and pumped forth a level of enthusiasm that has seldom been seen since Iron Maiden.

On the downside, the tremendous performance was greatly hindered by a repertoire as diverse as their fans’ choice in t-shirt colors. Fancy double-bass drum patterns, overdriven guitar solos and barking raps mixed with whiney singing all have their place in rock music, but it’s difficult to appreciate and digest when the musical equation goes unaltered.

All in all, A7X showed that they know how to put on a show that warrants a shower of ladies’ undergarments, but significant work needs to be done musically if they intend to expand their existing fanbase.

Coheed And Cambria, in contrast, came prepared with a diverse and robust setlist. From hit singles like “Blood Red Summer,” “A House Favor Atlantic” and “The Suffering” to more dynamic and lengthy selections like “In Keeping Secrets,” Coheed drove forth at speeds far greater than a 10-speed bicycle could ever wish.

Frontman Claudio Sanchez, who bore a striking resemblance to Cousin It, performed most impressively as he demonstrated his vast vocal range and instrumental talents. In many instances, he took the lead guitarist role and executed both canned and improvised solos with positive results (this was especially remarkable considering the vision impairment presented by his massive wall of hair). Some lyrics were dropped for effect, but that didn’t hurt the songs as they came across equally as powerful as on record.

Musical strength was certainly Coheed And Cambria’s most valuable attribute, but where M. Shadows grabbed the crowd by its throat and demanded certain types of behavior, Sanchez pled with it like a puppy begging for a snack. His characteristically un-rock and roll demeanor, soft-spoken request for a photo op and apology for having used profanity left many scratching their heads. How could someone who sings “I’d kill anything/Cut the throats of babies” display such meekness?

In an unusual ending that surely left first-time attendees baffled, Coheed And Cambria closed their set not with one of their hits (as A7X had) but rather with a 15-minute, Led Zeppelin inspired improvised jam on “The Final Cut.” The song’s slow tempo allowed for many interesting solos that included Sanchez playing behind his head and with his teeth, while guitarist Travis Stever pulled out the talk box ala Peter Frampton. Although an interesting and enjoyable listen for established fans, the song’s duration and slow pace left the show feeling a bit incomplete.

Overall Coheed And Cambria and Avenged Sevenfold, despite their clear differences, managed to satisfy their respective fans with their own brands of rock and roll. Unfortunately, although the bands’ differences could have conceivably complemented each other, they instead drew attention away from their strengths and toward their weaknesses. Because of this, it’s unlikely many converts were created. Who knows, maybe the two bands will take cues from each other and improve where improvements can be made. In that case, the unusual pairing would have succeeded in bringing out the best… otherwise it’ll go down as yet another example against awkward touring partners.