Like many, I assume, my first introduction to Coheed and Cambria was playing the song "Welcome Home" almost 10 years ago on the video game Rock Band with my best friend Meaghan. The plucky opening melody and singer Claudio Sanchez's high-pitched vocals had me hooked instantly.
Now, more than 11 years since the release of "Welcome Home" on the 2005 album Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness, the band has embarked on a "Neverender" tour for the album, playing it in its entirety to fans.
Concept albums are a rare art form, and it is even rarer to see a band that can keep an entire storyline running for more than 15 years. Sanchez has used the group's music as a companion piece to his Amory Wars comic series, and GAIBSIV is the third album to tell the sci-fi story.
Fans packed the Fillmore wall-to-wall, the sold-out venue filled to the point that I could barely make it to the photo pit.
An orchestral piece introduced the band, and Sanchez came out alone, acoustic guitar in hand. Starting off with a lullaby, the quiet solo performance was a delightful digression, but it was time to get heavy.
After finishing his song, Sanchez replaced his acoustic guitar with a double-necked Gibson SG, and the rest of the band joined him on stage. The sweeping intro of "Welcome Home" tore through the venue before powerful chords combined with crashing drums filled the air with a sense of heaviness.
This heaviness is not overpowering, and it always takes a back seat to artistry. Coheed and Cambria's sound is not buried under a wall of distortion. It is designed so you can hear and feel every rumble in bassist Zach Cooper's low end and every note in guitarist Travis Stever's sharp solos.
In fact, the only member who stays in an overdriven state of mind throughout the show is drummer Josh Eppard, who is already sweating and smashing his kit by the second song. Donning bright red glasses, Eppard shines bright as a musician who truly gives his all with every hit. Adorned with the "IV" from the album cover, his kit had taken an impressive beating by the end of the night.
Strobe lights and trippy visuals — including a screen full of maggots — set the stage, as the band ran around with an energy and precision not seen in a lot of other acts. The set has a great level of cohesion, with each song leaning into one another as they do on the album, and the live sound being almost a spot-on recreation of the studio version. The performance strays from the recording as Sanchez and crew improvise and take the already human-feeling songs and make them truly individualized instances of rock.
Head banging, singing and crowdsurfing galore, Coheed and Cambria shows always have a strong element of crowd participation. The fans are, in fact, one of the most important pieces of the show. Most of the audience wore shirts from old tours, and a large minority had the band's Keywork logo tattooed onto their bodies. Many in the sea of people even risked it all, carrying limited edition vinyl copies of GAIBSIV into the crowd. Holding on tight, these super fans defended their treasure with their lives.
In the intermission before the encore, Sanchez told the crowd that the Neverender shows make them feel like a "special rock band" because they are never sure how the fans will react when they are announced. The packed room seemed to be an indication that the fans are always willing to come out and experience the old albums in this way.