The Mars Volta, an Incredible Live Experience

It was well over two months ago that I was lucky enough to see this band live. I meant to write a review almost immediately, but between site overhauls, other issues and a series of delays, this is the first time I'm actually getting around to doing so properly. Consider it a testament to how much I enjoyed this show that I'm still writing a review so much later.

It was a Mars Volta show... at a smallish venue... general admission (perhaps my favorite way to see any significant concert event).

This band has always been known for amazing live shows, and this tour has apparently been no exception. Their unique blend of the psychedelic, atmospheric and jazzy, progressive, sometimes noisy improvisation, combined with an overwhelmingly powerful “punk rock” energy makes for an incredible and unique concert experience.

Here's the setlist from when I saw them, and one that has been used a lot on this tour:

1. Son et Lumiere
2. Inertiatic ESP
3. Goliath
4. Cotopaxi
5. Roulette Dares (The Haunt of)
6. Viscera Eyes
7. Halo of Nembutals
8. Eunuch Provocateur
9. Ilyna
10. Teflon
11. Drunkship of Lanterns
12. Luciforms
13. The Widow
14. Wax Simulacra

The show itself was actually pretty short, only about an hour and a half, which I found a little surprising from a band that regularly composes songs that top 10+ minutes or more. Still I can't say I was disappointed as from start to finish this band goes full bore.

Songs are explosive and bursting with energy, more than enough to get any crowd moving (which I'm glad to say is exactly what happened at this show... yay for crowds moving). It's an energy I associate very much with “punk shows” more so than anything else, except that with the Mars Volta, it's combined with so much psychedelic imagery, extensive musical complexity, interplay and improvisation... it's engrossing. This is the kind of show that leaves you physically drained, but equally amazed at what you've just witnessed and experienced.

I can't really pull out specific songs as highlights, as the event as a whole just blew my mind. It's very much like an assault on the senses that leaves you a little dazed. I will say that it was cool to hear newer songs like “Cotopaxi” and “Teflon” live (along with all the older stuff of course)... and they sounded awesome and locked together into the groove.

In fact, that's really what impressed me most about seeing this band like... just how together and locked in they sounded. If you're a fan of the Mars Volta, then you know, none of their songs can remotely be called simple. These compositions have intricate parts, changing time signatures, strange syncopations and change melody structures often from start to finish. Yet the songs felt extremely tight, but still comfortable and open enough for the band to be able to add personality and improvisation where appropriate. That's not an easy thing for any band to accomplish even with straight forward rock songs, let alone 10+ minute epic compositions.

The band also seemed totally into the music they were creating too... which I really like to see. These guys were rockin' out and totally grooving to the melodies. You could tell there's no doubt that the Mars Volta like the music they're making and are passionate about performing it live with as much power and energy as they can... and they deliver in spades.

And of course that passion and energy is infectious and gets the crowd going even more. Band into the music + Crowd into the music + Both sides getting moving + General Admission show = one fun concert event.

I'll be on the look out for a really great live album from this band, because although they have Scab Dates available already... and it is indeed a great album... I do feel that it doesn't completely capture what seeing the Mars Volta live is like. It's really close, but not quite. Some of the videos out there (like the two I just shared a few days prior here) capture it quite well though... great stuff all around.

In conclusion, if you're at all a fan of the Mars Volta, I'd definitely recommend getting out and seeing them live... it's a great show. This band has, without question, been added to my list of bands I'll do my best to see every time they come to town.

Oh, and don't hesitate to check out the Mars Volta's albums if you haven't already. I have just about everything they've ever released from full length albums to simple EPs and have even featured one release extensively. I find everything they write to be quite compelling, interesting and always evolving.

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