The Mars Volta get sick in Memphis (10/19)

Few bands on this earth are capable of putting on a show on par withThe Mars Volta. No matter how you look at the band’s elongated jams and nonsensical lyrics, they do put 110% into their show, and that’s precisely what they did at Minglewood Hall in Memphis, TN last night. On a Monday, no less.

Despite a nagging sickness, an ailment that lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala made clearly evident of early in the night (noting that he would be expelling “large amounts of bodily fluids” and a promise that a few in the front row might be going home with more than their concert tickets), the lead singer leaped, danced, and hit notes higher than previously recorded on the band’s five albums. It almost begged the question, “How do I get this sickness?”

With a few nights off, due to their recent cancellation in Cincinnati, the rest of the band didn’t miss a beat — at least for a Volta show. Drummer Thomas Pridgen hit the drums so hard that he frequently floated over his drum seat, while Omar Rodriguez-Lopez soloed like a dazed madman, forcing Bixler-Zavala to frequently look at him, and then back out to the crowd, as if to say, “Are you guys seeing this shit!”

Naturally, fans new and old would be pleased, and the band treated both alike, running through several tracks off ofDeloused in the Comatorium all the way through to this year’s, Octahedron.  Opener “Inertiatic ESP” sounded pristine, highlighting every performer that brought it to life. “Goliath” took off next, sounding as large and ominous as its title. Drummer Pridgen furiously beat away at the drums with forceful fills and a beat that couldn’t be stopped. He’s worth the price of admission alone. “Eunuch Provocateur” showed off the skills of bass player Juan Alderete, who is frequently overshadowed by band mates.

Latin freak-out “Ilyena” shook several in the crowd out of their glazed stupor, thanks to keyboardist Isaiah “Ikey” Owens pounding and intoxicating rhythms, rocking out as hard as a keyboard player can. Though it’s exciting to hear live, it’s time for Frances the Mute single “The Widow” to go… for good. Taking a short break before the song, Bixler-Zavala came out and hit every note, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the set, coming off rather stale and without the intense passion that any other song carries. Luckily, hard rocking “Wax Simulcra”, though short, gave the band one last chance to prove that they probably could have kept going for another hour or two.

The short hour-and-a-half setlist did however leave several in the crowd wondering what happened to the band that used to play marathon two and a half to three hour sets without a pause. Though there are few bands that could please a Mars Volta crowd (Portugal. The Man perhaps?), for $35 dollars, it may be time for someone else to step in — at least, as long as the band intends on playing a shorter set. Still, it’s one intense event. No, few left the small club grumbling; however, faces were melted, souls were shaken, and grossly… many bodily fluids were drained. It just all seemed less a journey and moreover a short, quick trip.


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