Sacramento nu-metal rockers the Deftones have been tipped as a likely next big thing almost since the release, five years ago, of their vibrant debut album. With their excellent, month-old “White Pony” collection, a recent top-10 charter, they finally appear poised to make their breakthrough commercial move.
At their second SoCal show of the week, Saturday night on the campus of San Diego State U., the quartet brought new intensity to their confrontational songs by showcasing stripped-down versions — sans studio refinement but with added arrangement nuances — that offered new insight into the group’s challenging and heavy music.
Show opened with a run of crowd favorites, including “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” and “My Own Summer,” two of the leading tracks on the group’s 1997 entry “Around the Fur” (Maverick Recordings), as well as their version of Depeche Mode’s “To Have and to Hold” and popular recent radio track “Change (in the House of Flies).”
“Summer” marked the first of many visits into the clamorous crowd by singer Chino Moreno, whose lyrical tales of inner struggle and other personal passions resonate loudly with the band’s young followers. Drenched in sweat, eyes closed and both fists tightly clenching his microphone, the enigmatic Moreno often appeared lost in his own mesmerizing performance.
The heavy riffage of the Deftones’ songs — often compared to Korn’s — is actually quite a bit more dynamic and complex than that of most of their contemporaries; at Cox Arena, songs like 1997’s “MX,” which slams the consumerism that drives such businesses as fashion, and the psychotic “Feiticeira” (from “White Pony”) featured engaging live arrangements that gave each a fresh vibe.
Older live fave “7 Words” brought the regular set to a rousing finish, while encore “Engine No. 9” segued into a cover of “Subliminal” by L.A. hard-core punks Suicidal Tendencies. A rowdy version of the fan appreciation ode “Head Up” (“I feel you next to me, getting spacey, with the common love of music”) brought the 70-minute show to an exhilarating end.