By Bryan McCabe
An end to a decade of Omertà. An end to a decade of silence. That’s how The Mars Volta have been hyping up their first tour in 10 years. Not only were fans getting a chance to see the prog rock powerhouse for the first time since 2012, they also got a new self-titled album right before the tour got underway. As for myself, I was hooked from the second I put Deloused in the Comatorium into my CD played back in 2003, but unfortunately, I never had the chance to see them live. There was no way that I was going to miss my opportunity to see them in Milwaukee this time though.
It was Saturday night and The Mars Volta were here to play at the historic Eagles Ballroom. In front of a crowd of nearly 2,500 people, the stage was washed in dark blue light as the band slowly and gently broke that decade of silence with the almost eerie “Vicarious Atonement.” From there the band kicked the energy into high gear with “Roulette Dares” off of their classic debut album. Gone are the days of skinny jeans and other emo fashion. What we have now are a band who are sporting a few more gray hairs and classy suits. They have gracefully aged with their fanbase. Along with those changes is a departure from vocalist Cedric Bixlar-Zivala throwing mic stands into the air while flailing around like someone having an out of body experience, and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López tap dancing on his pedal board while trying to keep up with the insane amount of effects that craft his distinct sound. Instead, they have transformed into a perfectly polished sonic juggernaut that is nearly flawless and sounds better than ever.
Even though they just put out a new album, they kept the new songs to a minimum, which I feel is a smart move. While the crowd absolutely did enjoy the new songs that the band did play, they may need some more time to become familiar with an entire album of new material. They wisely treated the fans to what most would say was a greatest hits set. Classics like “The Widow” and “Eriatarka” had the crowd singing along to every word. The variety of the crowd was almost eclectic as the band’s influences. There were people moshing, people salsa dancing, and kids on parents’ shoulders. After an hour and a half of hit after hit, Cedric took a few final moments to introduce everyone in the band before sending us off with what probably introduced a large portion of the crowd to the band in the first place. The instantly recognizable guitar swells and mesmerizing keys of “Son et Lumiere” started as the crowd waited for what they knew was coming. The band tore right into “Inertiatic Esp” with as much energy as they had 20 years ago. The crowd went wild and left every last bit of energy on the floor as they showed The Mars Volta how much they are loved.