Coheed and Cambria Captivate Fans at Smart Financial Centre

Claudio Paul Sanchez III and his glorious mopEXPAND
Claudio Paul Sanchez III and his glorious mop
Photo by Matthew Keever

The Amory Wars are ongoing.

Spanning a few dozen graphic novels, eight studio albums and a full-length novel — so far — the narrative behind Coheed and Cambria's lyrics is a dense one. It tells the story of a husband and wife who are fighting to protect Heaven's Fence, a universe comprising 78 planets that are connected by a beam of light known as the Keywork.

It's a compelling tale of love, family, betrayal and salvation, wrapped in science-fiction and delivered with an accompanying prog-rock soundtrack. But here's the thing about Coheed and Cambria: You don't have to know a thing about their comics to appreciate their music. It stands tall all on its own, underpinned by the kind of raw talent that listeners can feel in their bones.

Hell, you don't even have to be a prog-rock fan to like these guys. That's how good they are live.

On Thursday night, at a nearly sold-out Smart Financial Centre, the New York-based quartet played just over an hour of music for a throng of adoring fans. As a longtime casual observer, I was floored by the performance. Coheed sounded even better live than on record, which is no easy feat for a band playing this kind of technical music.

Vocalist Claudio Sanchez held such a command of the crowd that he was able to switch guitars in between just about every song, and fans didn't seem to mind cheering and applauding for a few extra moments each time to keep the silence at bay.

The band began its set with "The Dark Sentencer," an eight-minute tome and the first single from their upcoming album Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures. The track was released barely two months ago, but seemingly everyone in attendance already knew ever word.

Coheed spent the rest of the evening jumping between Amory War story lines — none of which were released in chronological order anyway — as Sanchez hid his face behind the mop atop his head, which made him look like a cross between Cousin Itt and Troy Polamalu.

Halfway through he show, the frontman finally put his hair up. Around the same time, I felt a bead of sweat trickle down my back, and I had to admire the frontman's dedication to headbanging in front of all those searing lights onstage.

Near the end of their performance, Coheed played a soft rendition of "Wake Up," arguably the sweetest song to make it into their setlist. Lovers and friends wrapped themselves up in one another, embracing and singing along as Sanchez serenaded them: "This story is for you/I'd do anything for you/Kill anyone for you."

It was as unique a romantic moment at a concert as I've ever witnessed.

Before Coheed, Taking Back Sunday performed a full set to an indifferent crowd. They weren't poorly received, exactly, but it was clear from the crowd's lukewarm reception that TBS barely qualified as an appetizer for the headlining act.

It wasn't until near the end of their set that TBS finally roped the crowd in. The band dug deep into its catalog - all the way back to 2002's Tell All Your Friends and 2006's Louder Now - to close the show with "Cute Without The E" and "MakeDamnSure," which finally got fans to stand up and sing along.

Unfortunately, Adam Lazzara's vocals were barely audible for most of the performance. Even when the instrumentation faded and his voice had the chance to take center stage, Lazzara usually retreated and let the crowd's collective voice carry the melody.

To Lazzara's credit, the band is 20 stops into a 28-city tour. His voice could have given out a bit by now, or maybe he was just having an off night. Either way, as a fan, it was a bit of a letdown.

(Coheed and Cambria)
The Dark Sentencer
Here We Are Juggernaut
Devil In Jersey City
In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3
The Crowing
Blood Red Summer
A Favor House Atlantic
Ten Speed (Of God's Blood & Burial)
Wake Up
Unheavenly Creatures
Welcome Home

(Taking Back Sunday)
What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?
Error: Operator
You Can't Look Back
Timberwolves At New Jersey
Liar (It Takes One To Know One)
Faith (When I Let You Down)
All Excess
A Decade Under The Influence
Better Homes And Gardens
Flicker, Fade
Set Phasers To Stun
Call Come Running
You're So Last Summer
My Blue Heaven
Cute Without the 'E' (Cut From The Team)
Tidal Wave

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