LIVE: Coheed & Cambria / Chon @ Academy 1, Manchester

By Liam Knowles

Coheed & Cambria shows always draw such an eclectic mix of people. On this Saturday night in Manchester, the Academy is a melting pot of emo kids, full on metalheads, dads in Rush tees, normal looking ‘trendy’ folk and people who DEFINITELY work in CEX; all hoping to embark on a journey of lush prog rock with tonight’s headliners. First, though, they all must survive having their brains melted by Chon. The California instrumental quartet aren’t exactly an easy listen, with mind-bending tempo and time signature changes that happen so quickly, by the time you’re getting your head round one mathy riff it’s already been replaced by another even mathier one. They do occasionally offer some shimmering, dreamy sequences that almost act as pallet cleansers between each bout of confusion, and the combination of the two really allows the band to showcase the full range of their incredible musicianship. Chon might not be for everyone, but there’s no denying the talent on show.

Coheed & Cambria are another unique band that could (and do) polarise people, but the packed out venue suggests that there are plenty of folk who are on board with their quirky mixture of angular post-hardcore and shameless prog rock, not to mention the ambitious sci-fi concept holding it all together. The band walk out to a rapturous welcome and launch straight into ‘The Dark Sentencer’, the opening track from their latest offering. Even though the album was only released a week ago, the crowd roars back every word with just as much enthusiasm as they do with the more established material. This is one of only four new tracks played tonight, and all of them go down an absolute storm. The only unsettling thing is vocalist Claudio Sanchez going guitarless for ‘Unheavenly Creatures’ and ‘Old Flames’. He has a tech play his parts so it still sounds as fantastic as you’d expect, but his stage presence without a guitar is a little lacking. Luckily for him, he’s always going to wow people with that unmistakable voice, which remains flawless throughout the evening’s performance.

The rest of the set is mostly a solid mix of material from ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth 3’ and ‘Good Apollo IV’, including a rare outing for fan favourite ‘The Crowing’ which features multiple, immaculately performed  layers of vocal harmonies and one of the best breakdowns ever committed to record by any band. Other classics like ‘Devil In Jersey City’ and ‘A Favour House Atlantic’ inspire deafening singalongs, whilst more progressive numbers like the title track from ‘In Keeping Secrets…’ and closing track ‘Welcome Home’ allow each member of the band to shine as musicians. Drummer Josh Eppard in particular is a pleasure to watch; he’s impossibly tight with groove for days and lays down the perfect foundation for his bandmates to build upon. The overall sound is impeccable, with every nuance of every track given room to breathe as the audience is bombarded with infectious riffs and stellar choruses.

Coheed & Cambria have now been doing this for the best part of two decades and are showing no signs of slowing down. Their latest album is being lauded as some of their best work, and their live performance is nothing short of jaw dropping. The sheer scale and grandeur of this band’s vision should surely have them pegged as future festival headliners when the old guard start dropping out; there’s never been a better time for them to step beyond the fence and force the non-believers to ‘Wake Up’.