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Nice socks: Deftones’ Chino Moreno.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Bomb Squad

By David King

Deftones

Northern Lights, June 10

I didn’t want to be at the Deftones concert on Sunday night. I didn’t want to be anywhere but in front of my TV, watching the Sopranos series finale. I had seen the Deftones a couple of times before, including once in Long Island, in a tepid set, opening for Godsmack. (They didn’t look like they wanted to be there that night, and I sure as hell didn’t want to see Godsmack.) But this Sunday, the Deftones looked happier than I had seen them before, and their choice of recorded music to play before their set—which included Milli Vanilli and Warren G—told me that, if nothing else, they had brought their senses of humor.

When the fluttering synthesizers of Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” gave way to a hum of warm Moog synthesizers and a Pink Floyd-esque soundscape, I got a little excited, thinking that maybe the ’Tones were about to play a practical joke on the amped-up crowd (now chanting “Def-tones! Def-tones!”) by laying down their most arty tracks—the ones more influenced by DJ Shadow and Mogwai than by Metallica or Slayer.

But I was wrong, and happily so. The ’Tones launched into what could have been an arena-dominating set, led by one of my personal favorite Deftones tracks, “Korea.” From there it was a barrage of classics: “Be Quiet and Drive” and “My Own Summer” bashed into each other like blinged-out Bentleys in some sort of deranged-millionaire demolition derby.

Then it was on to the meatiest tracks from their breakthrough second album, Around the Fur. Lead singer Chino Moreno poured a particularly nasty sort of zeal into “Rickets,” half singing, half choking, “I think too much, I feed too much. . . . You’re probably right but I don’t want to listen. . . . I don’t even care,” successfully channeling the angst of In Utero-era Nirvana. (Noticeably missing were any tracks from the Deftones’ 2003 self-titled album.)

Finally, as the wave of aggression broke like a window being opened on a sweaty summer night, the band dug into the most rewarding songs in its catalog, the ones where they successfully balance their love for art and harmony with the need to channel their fury.

Tracks like “Beware” and “Xerces” from their latest album, Saturday Night Wrist, were ridiculously enchanting. And for a band that is supposed to have lost its steam along with the death of nü-metal, they pretty well dismissed any doubts I still had about them with the opening chords of “Knife Party.” Then they smacked me for doubting them by playing “Passenger,” another My Bloody Valentine-inspired treat from White Pony.

It was only when the band struck up the playfully inspiring “Back to School,” in which Chino reminds other bands (hopefully Korn and P.O.D.), “Who ruined it? You did! Now grab a notebook and a pen, start taking notes!” that I remembered I had wanted to be somewhere else.

During the obligatory radio hit “Change (In the House of Flies),” which has graced many a prom dance, I started wondering if Tony Soprano was getting shotgunned. But rather than go out on that warm, radio-friendly note, the band broke out an oldie but goodie: “7 Words” from Adrenaline, in which Moreno again lashed out against expectations, screaming, “You don’t know me! Shut up, you don’t know me!”

Forward, in Reverse

The Frank Wakefield Band

WAMC Performing Arts Studio, June 2

“I hope I read Frank Wakefield’s review of my concert and he doesn’t like it.”

That’s typical of the 73-year-old Tennessee-born virtuoso mandolinist’s relentless onstage banter. Grinning like a court jester, he greets the crowd with “Goodbye,” bids adieu with “Hello,” speaks of aging in reverse, switches the first and second persons in his speech, and tells the audience not to buy his CDs and the live-FM-broadcast listeners to turn off their car radios. And, then, when you’re trying to stop laughing, he’ll get serious and pick his dulcet-toned 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin like nobody you’ve ever seen.

When Wakefield, still rebounding from coronary-bypass surgery six months ago, took the stage at the Linda Norris auditorium last Saturday (with bandmates Deane Lewis on five-string banjo, Pat Mullaly on guitar, and Fred Woodward on upright bass), it became obvious why his former pupil David Grisman hailed him as having “split the bluegrass atom.” He played with the speed and precision of Bill Monroe (who told him 50 years ago to find his own style) and Ricky Skaggs, but also explored musical regions unfathomed by them with his bizarre yet canny note choices. Dizzying downward spirals of dissonant runs and other melodic epiphanies blown over the conventional chords of old-school bluegrass songs left these ears amazed.

Deane Lewis was luminous on three-finger-style banjo and tenor vocals, while Pat Mullaly flatpicked occasional, sturdy guitar solos on the slower tunes in addition to his fine backup work. Both joined Wakefield in trio harmonies and also sang lead on a few numbers.

Wakefield’s backwards- reality shtick aside, the show was a mix of material he recorded for Folkways in 1964 with singer Red Allen and banjoist Bill Keith, and more recent work. Highlights included the minor-key gospel tune “Counting on David,” in which Wakefield’s penchant for outré soloing first surfaced, “The Mexican Stomp,” an original with seamless 3/4 to 4/4 time changes, and “Ashes of Love,” in which his clowning took a musical turn as he picked out a playful solo based on wide melodic leap in slow rhythms before following it with a second chorus, this time a cascade of fast eighth notes.

The only major foul-up of the night was the beginning of “Little Maggie,” when the band went off half-cocked, lurching through a few bars of bedlam before finding the beat. Given Wakefield’s extraordinary playing, though, even that didn’t stop the show from being among the top nights of acoustic music in the Capital District so far this year.

—Glenn Weiser


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