Written by Devonie Baker
Apr 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM
Omar Rodriguez-LopezWhile there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dumbed-down rock music comprised of bass, guitar, drums and a singer, with simple song structures in straight 4/4 time, The Mars Volta have clearly chosen the high road with their approach. They give the listener a lot to dissect and digest, while giving the critics plenty to chew on.Touring for their latest critically acclaimed album Frances the Mute, The Mars Volta gave 110% of sweat and sacrifice at their Houston show at the Verizon on Tuesday. With vibrant guitarist-producer Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, animated vocalist-lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, bassist Juan Alderete de la Pena, keyboardist Ikey Owens, percussionist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, and last, but CERTAINLY not least , their kick-ass drummer Jon Theodore, The Mars Volta put together a high-energy, well executed rock show.

Combine a deliciously shrill tenor voice with driving rhythms (from one of the most astounding rock drummers of late), super catchy hooks and sweeping weirdness, eardrum busting high-pitched freaky phrasing and some intense focus – and you’ve got yourself a Mars Volta show. Listening to them (live or otherwise) is nothing short of a sweeping rock mood-swing. The shows border on rock opera, and compared to your average rock show, it veers way off course, which was refreshing. With no opening act, their set lasted two and a half hours, consisting of round about 8 songs. If anyone can stretch eight songs into two and half hours, The Mars Volta, with their epic, torturous jams, can surely rise to the challenge.

The Mars Volta, along with bands like Radiohead, have certainly been ahem – instrumental in bringing back art-rock. Through a mix of strings, keyboards, ferocious drumming, high-pitched bilingual vocals, and horns you can’t avoid comparisons to bands like, Pink Floyd and Yes. And from El Paso, Texas no less?! Stunning! The Mars Volta is not your average band by any means, as they’re unafraid to experiment with sounds and melding genres. They force the listener to think of songs not stopping and starting in three-minute intervals, but pushing you along while weaving into the next oeuvre.

The best way for a band such as The Mars Volta to win over an art-rock skeptic made nervous by the term “prog”, or worse, “jam band”, is by putting on a stellar live performance. They’ve got enough energy to power a small city and they had the kids at the Verizon in a frenzy before their giant spider curtain even dropped. The Mars Volta have continued to tour and sell out shows all over the US. It seems people either absolutely love them or have never heard of them, but with their recent radio play of The Widow, I suspect their mass appeal is just over the horizon.