Saturday Night: Coheed and Cambria at Bayou Music Center

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Coheed and Cambria, Between the Buried and Me, Russian Circles Bayou Music Center March 2, 2013

The last time Coheed and Cambria came through town, they were opening for Iron Maiden at The Woodlands. I'd never really considered Coheed to inhabit the same universe as those heavy-metal gods; their music is a tad too gentle and bright to conjure comparisons to "Number of the Beast." But I guess the metal hallmarks are all there: the comic-book lyrics, the histrionic front man, the shout-along choruses.

The band proved once again that they can bang with the heavyweights at Bayou Music Center on Saturday night, headlining a bill with a couple of the country's finer purveyors of thinking-man's metal.

Chicago's Russian Circles seemed to go on nearly the minute the doors opened, but a large crowd was already inside the venue to catch them. The heavy instrumental trio was a little hard to see, lit only by what appeared to be a couple of 60-watt bulbs onstage. There was no trouble hearing them, however, as the entire crowd was good enough to shut up and listen to Russian Circles' spacey marches.

As they crescendoed from proggy, fingerboard-tapping guitar passages to pulverizing metal riffs, the audience clapped and hooted along. A few big joint rips were blown up toward the stage, indicating that a few of us were probably enjoying the band's heavier, stonier passages a bit more than others.

Up next, Between the Buried and Me jumped all over the musical map during their set. The band likes to cram every iteration of rock and roll that comes to mind into their songs, and they showed off their full repertoire on Saturday. Vocalist Tommy Rogers played a few jaunty keyboard lines and even a little synthesized marimba when he wasn't screaming his guts out.

BTBAM transitioned seamlessly from swingin' honky-tonk to some of the most ferocious blastbeats to have graced the stage at Bayou Music Center in recent memory. Over and over again, guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Warring would entrance, then eviscerate.

Devil horns and smart phones stayed in the air through it all. Fans seemed to fear that if they started moshing, they might miss a note.

The crowd remained abuzz -- especially outside in the overcrowded smoking area -- as Coheed's stage setting was moved into place. Flanking the group's amps were two identical cohorts of featureless white mannequins...busty ones.

I couldn't help snickering a little at the pair that were kneeling on splayed knees, thrusting their chests out as if to receive some sort of department-store golden shower.

Mercifully, it was only the audience that was showered. But in notes, naturally, not... well, let's not even finish that metaphor. Coheed and Cambria may walk like a metal band and quack like a metal band at times, but there were plenty of softer moments in their set. Front man Claudio Sanchez even opened the show on the ukulele for "Pretelethal."

The guitar fireworks followed soon after, inspiring frenzied singalongs on older cuts like "A Favor House Atlantic." The PA juice was turned way up for Coheed's set, and they sounded huge in the cavernous theater. Boys and girls who have probably worn out a few earbuds listening to their proggy epics screamed Sanchez's lyrics back at him.

Between songs, a distressed female computer voice blurted out warnings and status reports as the band's LED backdrop flashed spastically. Her anxious tone was thankfully washed away by Coheed's upbeat guitar squalls, though, with new song "The Afterman" striking me as particularly gentle and reassuring. The band managed to build to a big finish, peaking with "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3." There was plenty of raw power dripping from its fat trashcan ending.

Now, Iron Maiden it wasn't. But Coheed and Cambria definitely had the songs and the stagecraft to rock the theater hard on a Saturday night. By the time we reach the end of Sanchez's Armory Wars tetralogy, they may wind up needing a bigger stage.

And if they stack the lineup of that tour any better than they did this one, fans will probably still feel good about the ticket price.

Personal Bias: Haven't really checked in on Coheed since they left Equal Vision.

The Crowd: College-educated.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I wish it had sounded this good for Between the Buried and Me."

Random Notebook Dump: Sanchez's giant mutton chops made it appear as though his massive, curly mop had finally begun to devour his face.

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