Outside of certain musical circles, Deftones have never gotten the respect they deserve. They got lumped in with an emerging wave of "nu metal" in the mid-90s. Being the smartest band among that bunch was akin to being the tallest short kid in junior high.
But the band never was a great fit among that largely knuckle-dragging genre, as evidenced by one of my favorite Deftones concert memories when the band opened a late-90s Newport show with a Depeche Mode cover.
A decade later, another sweaty and appreciative crowd packed the Newport on Friday to see a band that seems to have found its old swagger.
I arrived fashionably late and payed a high price. A punctual start for a Newport headliner left me walking in 15 minutes into the set and — according to the setlist I saw — at the tail-end of a trio of great tracks from the band's excellent second album "Around the Fur."
No matter, as I quickly got sucked into the energy. Singer Chino Moreno's stage presence was emulated by countless singers to follow, but seeing it live is still a treat. He flips the switch from emotive crooning to throat-shredding scream as well as anyone, and grooves like he's attached to unseen marionette strings.
Ironically, it seems a tragedy has rejuvenated the band. A 2008 car crash left original bassist Chi Cheng in a coma-like state. The band shelved an in-progress album, before regrouping for 2010's "Diamond Eyes," a return-to-form album after a pair of missteps. Songs from the album were a treat, even for those there to relive old times. The slinky, sexy "You've Seen the Butcher" was a particular highlight.
Filling in for Cheng was former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega. Vega is, for my money, one of the finest foundational bass players of the past two decades. You can have the noodling of Les Claypool or Flea, but if we're drafting a fantasy band (and Eric Avery is already off the board), I'm taking Vega. Seeing him live was a rare treat, and I recommend you check out his catalog with Quicksand.
The setlist was a fine cross-section of the band's catalog with the wise omission of any tunes from the weak "Saturday Night Wrist" album. But it was a performance of "Passenger" from the seminal "White Pony" that got me to say, "Hold my glasses, I'm going down front." I may be getting too old for this. I didn't care.
The band's two-song encore of energetic numbers from their first album was a perfect capper. I left the show covered in sweat and satisfaction.