The Mars Volta: Manchester Apollo

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Guitar masturbation anyone? Yes please, says Matt ElandGetintothis favourites The Mars Volta return to Manchester.


Towards the end of the Mars Volta’s set, I eavesdrop one of the most retarded comments from a fellow gig-goer EVER.
He said something like this – ‘I think that’s a bit too much guitar wanking now,’ What exactly did he expect to hear at a Mars Volta show!?!
You should, by now, know where you stand with the Volta; whether you think they’re self indulgent dickheads or afro-ed rock gods. I love them, and tonight they’re on fire.
Yet the night started off shakily: the band sleepwalking through Viscera Eyes and Wax Simulacra, Cedric Bixler struggling to fill the no-man’s land of stage space separating the band from the crowd.
He gets past this by inviting up about 40 or so lucky punters (incurring the wrath of the venue), who gaze up with awe as they launch into a 30-minute version of Goliath.
And this is where they come into their own – while-the-faithful-to-the-recorded-version tunes are all well and good, it’s when they drag things out, take you for a ride, and juuuust when you think you’ve lost them forever, slam back into a ferocious breakdown, beat or vocal.
It’s not safe to leave your seat for a second (a hasty bar trip meant I missed the start of Cygnus
Visimund Cygnus) because, invariably, you’ll miss something.
So that’s one common criticism: their musical masturbation. It’s a matter of taste.
A concern among fans, however, is whether a band with a reputation for progression and innovation can ever progress themselves – will they always be the band based on the blueprint of their first album?
Well, they’ve bought themselves some time
because on record, and live, they’re in serious danger of becoming the Thomas Pridgen show.
Afterwards, he is all anyone talks about – he plays with certain arrogance, a weird mechanical metronome – that’s in complete contrast with Jon Theodore, their previous drummer, allegedly fired for being too negative about playing live.
It’s a completely different sound, and the impetuousness of the way he plays seems to threaten the oligarchy of the band. It’s that distinctive – as if the Volta is his show, and he’s running things. And it’s just what they need.
So the Volta will keep on evolving, and these questions will keep getting asked. The progression between their four studio albums is satisfying, to me at least (I listened to them all back to back before the gig – enough to get you talking bollocks for weeks).
Maybe their next one will be the oft-alluded too acoustic one – maybe it’ll be their techno dub reggae spazz-core one. Who cares?
As Drunkship of Lanterns slams to a stop with devastating accuracy, all I know is that I’ll follow wherever they go. All hail the Volta!

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