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Arts and Entertainment

Neverender: Coheed and Cambria at The Avalon

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Video of "Welcome Home" by the LOCAL via Flickr

Thanks to a few MTV hits and a tour schedule that often paired them with the likes of Linkin Park and AFI, Coheed and Cambria have long been wrongly confined to the teeny-bopper ghetto of emo/nu-metal genres -- when in fact, their work is much closer to the expansive prog-rock of Rush and the epic fantasias of Led Zeppelin. Each of their four releases is a "concept" album in the strictest sense -- lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez has constructed an entire sci-fi saga of love, death, and family, a storyline that is also retold in his comic book series, "The Amory Wars". This is not teeny-bopper shit, here, this is rock and roll. Ok -- so maybe it's "Star Wars" inspired rock and roll, but no matter how nerdcore their lyrics might get from time to time, C&C still have the courage of conviction enough to pull off concept albums with ambition and skill.

With a body of work like C&C's, it's actually most fitting for the band to perform each album in its entirety, a feat that they have accomplished twice so far this year with four-night stints in New York and Los Angeles. Titled "Neverender," this concert series is a fully realized, stunning performance that honors both the integrity of the music and the intelligence of the audience. At the Avalon last week, there were no opening acts, no between-song chit-chat, and no disinterested fans. Ok, yes, there was maybe a 15-minute drum solo and maybe, just maybe, Sanchez plays his guitar with his teeth a few times, but even these typical rock band behaviors are integrated into a performance that does not fail to shock and awe.

Video of "Welcome Home" by the LOCAL via Flickr

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Sanchez and company are not showmen in the traditional sense -- they're the kind of performers who prefer to let their instruments do the talking (although in Sanchez's case, his hair is awfully expressive as well), and there's a minimum of show-boating. Banter was limited to a brief "Hey, how you doing tonight" -- but the audience, composed of serious fans, didn't seem to mind. Tracks like "Welcome Home" and "No World For Tomorrow" were technically pristine but emotionally expansive, with Sanchez's live vocals sounding like near-perfect reproductions of the album's.

You can't help but throw around the name of Geddy Lee when trying to describe Sanchez's voice -- his vocal style is high-pitched but dynamic, even girlish at times. If anything, though, his voice lends a certain necessary strangeness to tracks that can otherwise devolve quickly into uber-catchy choruses and sticky-sweet melodies. But the bulk of C&C's songs (especially the newer tracks) are anthemic and emotionally charged, full of complex instrumentation and even more complex lyrics.

The crowd was a major part of the experience -- they were just as committed to the music as the band. The vibe veered towards a sort of religious intensity, as fists pounded the air and mosh pits swirled (I counted at least two). But what I found most compelling was that even the most hard-core moshers would stop their frenzied dancing at certain points, struck into a respectful silence by one of Sanchez's lyrics or a particularly virtuosic guitar riff. This band can control an audience, that's for sure, and they didn't even have to speak a word.

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