Monday, October 8, 2012 at 7:15 a.m.
Coheed and Cambria
October 5, 2012
On Friday night, I was flipping through the television and waiting for my ride to the Coheed and Cambria show at Fingerprints. "The Song Remains the Same," the legendary film of Led Zeppelin's show at Madison Square Garden, was on VH1Classic. It was almost serendipitous, because it was clear that Coheed and Cambria shared some similarities with the legendary band -- screeching vocals, epic guitar solos and strange mystic symbolism.
When I showed up to Fingerprints, fans were waiting in the queue outside of the main entrance on 4th Street which by now stretched all the way down around Elm Street. My first thought: How the hell was everyone going to fit in the record store? Dressed in their Coheed and Cambria T-Shirts, fans were yelling at strangers on the street, trumpeting their frenzy over the arrival of Cooheed's new album, "The Afterman: Ascension," which is slated for release on Oct. 9. These concert-goers were receiving their double concept album early. Fingerprints conjured up a sweet deal: if you pre-ordered the album through the store, then you would get to hear the band live, too.
Even though the crowd buzzed outside of the store, it was impossible for them to know what an incredible performance awaited them.
I walked into Fingerprints, while Coheed and Cambria were going through their soundcheck. They sat in wooden chairs in front of a red curtain with their acoustic guitars, running through their set list, and asking questions like: "Is this song a half-step down? What are we leading off with? What are we ending with?" Even during the warm-up, Coheed sounded tight and inviting. New bassist, Zach Copper, brought a texture to the harmonies that created vibrancy and fullness, and drummer, Josh Eppard, rocked an egg-shaker and banged on the tambourine with enthusiasm. Our only gripe of course was the absence of the cowbell.
So the band went upstairs to the loft at Fingerprints, surrounded by album posters, old records and strange musical instruments, and the crowd bullied into the store and set up shop in front of the stage, one at a time, screaming and yelling in anticipation. "I don't know what's going on," one fan said, "but I love it."
Coheed and Cambria are known for their heavy sound and guitar licks -- harmonics popping off like roman candles -- that create a tension, as if at any moment, their songs are about to take a detour into metal. But on Friday night, the show was intimate, acoustic and, well, a softer-side of the post-hardcore band not many have seen. They opened their set with the title track from their new album, "The Afterman." The song was highlighted by Claudio Sanchez's distinctive voice paired with Travis Stever's lead guitar, looping a syncopated melody to the main hook.
The in-store concert brought the audience into an unparalleled intimacy with the band, and the crowd became an integral part of the performance. Coheed was interacting with the crowd, responding to their remarks -- somebody in the audience was riding Eppard for rocking out too hard with a tambourine -- and Sanchez was cueing the crowd, asking them to take the lead vocals, as if he was a conductor cueing the brass section. The crowd sang with passion, and Sanchez continued to encourage: "You sound great." With their cell phones raised high, capturing videos for YouTube and blogs, the audience beamed with fanboy joy.
Coheed ended their performance with "Mother Superior." While the band only played around six songs without an encore, Coheed stayed for hours after the show, signing records and interacting with the audience. For the lucky few in attendance, it almost felt like they were just chilling in the living room at house party, while Coheed played an impromptu set on someone's couch - just with a far more superior sound system.
Critic's Bias: Coheed reminds me of awkward high-school memories. And sometimes Sanchez's vocal delivery kind of reminds me of Popeye asking Olive for some spinach.
Overheard in the Crowd: "In Texas, I got a $460 ticket for public urination."
The Crowd: Everyone felt like they were "with the band."