Setting the Stage: For as long as Deftones and Gojira had to wait before they could finally tread the boards at Portland, Oregon’s Moda Center to kick off their North American tour on Thursday night (April 14th), neither band wasted any precious moments of their stage time commenting on the pandemic, the postponements, or anything concerning the strangeness of the past two years.
Despite the tour being twice-postponed (it was originally slated for summer 2020), a lot has happened for both bands leading up to this night. In addition to releasing their most recent album Ohms in 2020 and a 20th anniversary edition of White Pony, Deftones earned a couple of Grammy nominations for the songs “Ohms” and “Genesis.” There was also an air of mystery going into the show, as it was recently revealed that the band parted ways with bassist Sergio Vega, and a replacement hadn’t yet been announced.
Gojira, meanwhile, have had an eventful year since they released their seventh studio album, Fortitude. That LP scored the French metal act its highest debut on the Billboard 200 chart and netted the band a Grammy nomination. And they’ve already played headlining tours of the United States and Europe in support of the album.
Even this particular tour (tickets available here) has undergone some changes as planned opener Poppy dropped off after the two postponements. (She was replaced on these dates by Australian industrial duo VOWWS.) Yet outside of some stray remarks from Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and Gojira leader Joe Duplantier laughing about how fans were going to see his band shaking off some nonexistent rust, both groups wasted little time last night, opting to get right down to business of mercilessly tearing through their career-spanning sets.
Taking the Stage: For an arena rock show marked, as it should be, by its large scale and massive volume, Deftones’ headlining set was defined by its small gestures.
There were the nods to their patient fans by way of a setlist that touched on every one of the band’s nine studio albums and included three live debuts: “Genesis” and the title track from their 2020 album Ohms, and “Lovers,” a 2003 B-side from their “Hexagram” single. That last song was an especially welcome treat as proven by the wave of excitement that rippled through the crowd from the first wowing synth note and the number of folks shouting along with Moreno whenever he returned to the lyrical phrase, “I wish she’d come.”
Then there were the little moments where the members of Deftones, especially Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter, made sure that everyone in the room and on the stage were staying connected for the duration of the 75-minute performance. They were often tiny things like when Moreno wandered over to the far edge of stage left to give a quick wave to someone in the crowd (probably the tiny pre-teen sitting on her father’s shoulders) while the band barreled through the Diamond Eyes cut “Rocket Skates.” Or the devil horns Carpenter flashed to a fan between songs at the set’s midpoint.
From a practical standpoint, the show confirmed the rumor that bassist Fred Sablan (known for his work with Marilyn Manson and Chelsea Wolfe) is Deftones’ new touring bassist. The band was also joined by an as-yet-unidentified second guitarist on select tracks.
Throughout the night, the band members shared knowing looks, smiles, and nods with one another. They were expressions both of support and of sheer delight at finally being onstage together after a long break. And it felt like a gesture of solidarity for Sablan on his first night stepping into the fray of a long tour with a new band.
Catching those various gestures wasn’t easy as Deftones left little time for stage banter or goofing around. The first half of the set roared ahead with only quick pauses between songs for a quick “Thank you!” from Moreno. It wasn’t until after “Knife Prty” that the singer finally opened up a bit, noting how wild it was for the tour to finally be happening and that a packed house was there to see it. “You people stuck with us,” he said. “That shit is ill.”
Gojira took the stage prior to Deftones, and whatever rust Joe Duplantier was speaking of regarding his band’s set was relegated only to some apparent technical issues. Early on, the singer-guitarist made a couple of stops on the side of the stage, looking like he was having some trouble with either his stage monitors or the one tucked into his ears.
While the band was tight as ever, there was an audible muddiness that plagued the set, partially obscuring Joe Duplantier’s pointed lyrics and muffling the impact of his and Andreu’s guitar work. It did, however, favor the drumming, with Mario Duplantier’s double kick work dominating the sound field on their especially heated performances of Magma’s “Silvera,” and the title track from L’enfant sauvage.
Even without their full array of visuals and pyrotechnics, Gojira played with explosive heat, particularly on the material from their most recent album. “Grind” had a demolition derby energy thanks to Mario’s punk-ish assault on the drum kit and the insistent squeal of the guitars, and on set closer “Amazonia,” the group was given a nice jolt by an appearance from Car Bomb guitarist Greg Kubacki, who borrowed one of Christian Andreu’s axes to play the song’s steely hook.
Gojira’s set also inadvertently provided a litmus test for the mood of the Portland audience. The energy in the Moda Center noticeably shifted when the band took on two of the slower, more textured tracks from Fortitude, “The Chant” and “Hold On.” Try as Joe Duplantier did to get folks to sing along with the wordless vocal hook of the former, few joined in. This was a crowd hungry for a cleansing assault of volume and energy from two of the best heavy rock bands in the business. Anything less than that made them visibly restless, but also made the release that followed when Gojira slammed into another brutal and technical fan favorite that much sweeter.
See our photos of Deftones, Gojira, and Vowws in the gallery below, followed by fan-filmed video and the setlists. The tour runs through a May 28th show in Minneapolis. Pick up tickets via Ticketmaster.
Photo Gallery – Deftones, Gojira, and Vowws at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon (click to enlarge and scroll through):
All photos by Kevin Pettigrew.
Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
My Own Summer (Shove It)
Engine No. 9
Change (In The House of Flies)
Born For One Thing