The Mars Volta Koolhaus, Toronto ON - May 13, 2005

The Mars Volta Koolhaus, Toronto ON - May 13, 2005
The Mars Volta are very demanding. Their music asks a lot from the listener - their overwhelming progressive tendencies stir up a mind-expanding, soulful journey of relentless tangents, fusing what should be five or six songs into one epic work that pushes the clock into the double digits. And yet they entered Toronto on a cool, rainy night for an all-ages show that had sold out long in advance at a venue that hosted Coldplay two nights before. Knowing this, it's not just the Mars Volta's music that blows minds, it's their unexpected popularity as well. Without any support act, it was obvious the Texans were expected to deliver a couple hours of music. Main men Omar A Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala took the stage with their recognisable 'fros in check and their slight bodies ready to (prog) rock. And they did, opening with a non-stop tour de force that extended past the 30-minute mark before they took a well-deserved break. While the epic piece kept the majority of the 2,000 fans stirring, it also put one concertgoer to sleep, at least until security checked her for vital signs. The varied crowd proved just how powerful the Mars Volta's music is - prepubescent kids nodded their heads alongside parents to Lopez's rapid-fire skronky riffs and the band's constant groove, while others sang along to a slithering Bixler's lyrics in both English and Spanish. When they hit their peak on the chameleonic marathon "L'Via L'Viaquez," awe struck the eyes and ears of everyone. The tight rhythm changes - from spastic funk rock to a Santana groove breakdown - were spot on, showcasing just how synchronised this seemingly improv band really are. Despite a few early hollow sound difficulties that quickly subsided, the band stepped up and delivered one dazzling show that was as enthused and powerful as the legendary gigs of that other band Lopez and Bixler used to be in.