Photos by Katrina Lat
I need to start by saying – stay with me here – that while I like Coheed and Cambria, I do not consider myself a fan of Coheed and Cambria. Why? Because the actual fans of Coheed do not deserve to be grouped in with the likes of me. If you aren’t already familiar, Coheed and Cambria makes so much more than just music: they make comic books, they have a full-length novel, and, most importantly, they make stories. This year they put out their 8th record, The Colour Before the Sun, which is special in that it is their first non-conceptual album. As far as I am concerned, they are the embodiment of modern progressive rock. And that is why I – a big fan of Welcome Home from my Rock Band 2 days – do not consider myself a fan. But I do like them.
Coheed were joined by two acts for their show at REBEL (formerly Sound Academy): Polyphia and Saves the Day. Polyphia opened with their own brand of instrumental progressive metal. The Texas band rocked a short but sweet set, clearly demonstrating their technical prowess. However, instrumental music, especially metal, is a tough thing to pull off at a show: without any lyrics for people to sing along to, you really need to find different ways to engage the audience, and you need to be especially creative as an opening band. Polyphia fell a bit short here, foregoing attempts at audience engagement in favour of pure musicality.
Saves the Day followed up Polyphia, bringing a taste of emo pop punk to the table. It… honestly felt a bit out of place. Saves the Day seems like a band that could easily headline their own little tour, as the hardcore fans in attendance seemed to suggest. That being said, I can’t really imagine a perfect band to open for Coheed and Cambria: they really just stand on their own. Regardless, Saves the Day put on a solid set, with some absolutely incredible guitar solos, and their adoring fans seemed very satisfied.
I like to imagine that the bands pick the songs that play in the intermission before they go on, and that those are some of their favourite pump-up songs. Consequently, I was quite amused when the venue aired a playlist of 80’s pop hits like “Manic Monday” and “Maniac” before Coheed’s set. There’s something about the image of Claudio Sanchez, lead singer and guitarist of Coheed and Cambria and owner of perhaps the most luscious hair of any man alive, jamming out to The Bangles that makes me giggle inside.
Coheed, of course, was spectacular. As soon as they came on, it became clear to me just how much of a non-fan I was: many verses were left almost entirely for the crowd sing, which they happily and enthusiastically did. Fortunately, many of the refrains were repetitive enough that even those not part of the cult of Coheed were able to join in easily and happily. They made attempts here and there to engage the crowd, often in fun and entertaining ways (like Claudio filling the audience in on the fact that he spent the better part of the Polyphia set standing at the back of the stage in a Grim Reaper mask), but the focus for the show was predominantly on the music. As it should be.
Their lighting setup was incredible, if at times a bit disorienting (during one song in particular, it seemed like every single one of their lights was turned to the “strobe” setting). Because I was standing near the back, I had a fantastic view of both the band and the dozens of people filming the band on their cell phone cameras. I have no idea what they were thinking. A guy in front of me, in an attempt to film a song early in the set, managed to get a two minute long video of a pulsing blue light. At no point was the band visible. Maybe someday I’ll understand.
I do have one major gripe. For their final song, they played easily their biggest hit, Welcome Home. In the darkness preceding the song, they donned spooky masks made by a local company, the Devil’s Latex. It looked really cool. As the first verse started, Claudio let the audience take the melody while he focused on guitar; Nothing uncommon for this set. But then… he just never stepped up to the mic. I could see the smiles slowly fade from people’s faces as they realized the band was not going to be doing any singing at all. It was definitely a bit of a let down.
All in all, the music was fantastic, even if the one song many were looking forward to was a tad disappointing. Maybe now I’ll even start to dig deeper into the world of Coheed and Cambria. Or maybe I’ll just continue to fondly reminisce about strumming along with them on my fake guitar.