Opening proceedings not just for tonight but for this entire run are the math rock homeys in Chon (8). Since making their debut on our side of the pond in 2015, the San Diego prog rock collective have swiftly built a loyal and doted fanbase on our shores and going from tonight, it’s transparent to see why. Introducing the Welsh capital to the spoils of instrumental progressive math rock, Chon remove themselves from the aloof and uncommunicative tendencies stereotypically associated with the genre and warm the Y-Plas with their warm, sunlit and pleasant textures and soundscapes. Lush and intricate, content from 2017’s Homey washes the sold-out venue with delightful ambience, with tracks such as ‘Waterslide’ and ‘Sleepy Tea’ demonstrating how Chon can create and recite content that is technically complex whilst still being universally appealing.
Flying wordlessly though a set of their finest choice cuts, such a set serves as a brilliant introduction for those unfamiliar and unintroduced with the art of instrumental prog rock, with select cuts from their 2015 debut Grow pacifying and captivating the mind of every punter in attendance. Despite such brilliance being recited with finesse and ease, a poorly mixed sound does sadly muffle their delicate intricate eccentrics, with the tightly calculated drums overpowering the hidden depth of this act. However, when the group cap off their set with the convoluted bounce of ‘Perfect Pillow’, sound issues aside, it’s crystal clear to understand why this act are held with such high regard.
Photo: Georgia Brittain
When sombre theatrical keys backed by demonic voices uttering nonsense intergalactic terminology open a performance, you know you’re about to witness a Coheed And Cambria (9.5) set. Released just days prior to this performance, tonight marks Coheed’s second show since the release of their ninth album, The Unheavenly Creatures. Returning to their conceptual roots, the record see’s the New York prog trendsetters documenting a new chapter of their sci-fi Armoury Wars saga, an epic tale that spans the majority of their discography. Opening with the cinematic and operatic pounding of 'The Dark Sentencer', it’s clear that the return to the fictional realm has reinvigorated this brilliant act, with their sound being simply arena filling and tremendous tonight. Whilst the group have always been renowned for their colossal live shows, tonight feels like a new level for this group, one where they have intentionally contemplated on how to their bolster and fortify their presence.
Despite their latest record returning to the world of fictional concepts and lengthy space sagas, such ideals are placed into the background, with Coheed storming through a highly inclusive setlist pandered to both the devoted and mildly curious simultaneously. As the group charge through the rarely performed ‘Here We Are Juggernaut’ and the 2002 classic ‘Devil In Jersey City’ before dazzling attendee’s with their latest single ‘The Unheavenly Creatures’, whilst Coheed are praised for being natural showmen, it honestly feels like they’re are on another level tonight.
Photo: Georgia Brittain
Perhaps It’s the prospect of performing new material, potentially it’s the fact that Coheed have returned to their much loved fictional story telling, but either way, the energy and passion emitted by the group is spectacular and deeply infectious. Tight, profound and staggering, such a set is dotted with breath taking, hair raising moments of euphoria. As the ominous strings of ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3’ descend to rapturous ecstasy and the pop orientated hooks of ‘Blood Red Summer’ and ‘A Favor House Atlantic’ drive the crowd into a frenzy, it’s clear that not only do Coheed know how to pander to their devoted, but the fashion in which they can animate such progressive rock elements to appeal universally is incomparable.
Despite the group remaining consistently remaining loyal to the foundations of prog rock and space prog, genres archetypically perceived as stoic and shy, content from The Unheavenly Creatures breaks the almost ancient mould of the genre and proves to be rousing and energetic on a primal level. The triumphant ‘The Gutter’ feels reminiscent of the colossal performances of Queen and the borderline pop punk mentality of ‘Old Flames’ ignites adolescent wonder within the audience, with everyone haplessly giving in to the simple pop-esque vocals. When a legacy act reveals a new record there’s always unspoken anxieties if new content will interblend with their back catalogue on stage, but tonight shows simply how such tracks from The Unheavenly Creatures are destined to become live staples for years to come. Ending on the ever poignant ‘Welcome Home’, it feels like Coheed And Cambria have entered a new era of their already lengthy career and judging from a set such as this, one could argue that could have headlined the Motorpoint arena just down the road.