Nowadays, it takes a mighty rock band to fill pretty much any venue, let alone one that can house 1200 folks at standing room-only capacity. Still, the Mars Volta, El Paso’s reigning progressive rock kings, barely batted an eyelash as they shredded through nearly an hour and a half of material in their Tuesday night show at the Majestic Ventura Theater.
Awash in strobes and backed by a surrealist banner of eyeballs and bird wings, The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez proved to be the night’s standout star. Dressed ever so properly in a crisp shirt, vest, and skinny jeans, the guitarist shredded at a speed and precision that truly deserved to be compared to the late Jimi Hendrix, delivering an electric onslaught during the set-opening “Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)” and a mix of psychedelia and ambient noise on the newly penned “Teflon.” Combined with frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s oddly emotive high-pitched warble, and a drummer who oozes Animal-like fury, the set proved to be a 13-song study in experimental builds and instrumental theatrics.
Unsurprisingly, the night was driven by spiraling jam after spiraling jam, and felt more like watching an epic band practice than a contemporary rock show. Songs bled into those that came before and those that followed, and then drifted off into otherworldly, slow-building improvisations before transitioning. But-thanks perhaps to the band’s legion of diehard fans present-even spanking-new tunes went off without a hitch. Songs like “Luciforms” and “Halo of Nembutals” (off the band’s soon-to-be-released Octahedron) stood out from past euphoric rock-outs (“Goliath,” “Ilyena”) in much the same way the radio-friendly “The Widow” stood out on 2005’s Frances the Mute, signaling what is perhaps a conscious move toward more sophisticated, concise songwriting.
Still, the juxtaposition between new and old tunes made Tuesday night’s set not only palatable, but downright enjoyable. The six-piece managed to keep the onstage energy at near-bursting levels of euphoric intensity throughout the entire set, and-perhaps more importantly-kept the crowd ecstatically swaying and fist-pumping along. As one concertgoer behind me oh-so-astutely pointed out just three songs into the onslaught, “You don’t realize how hard they’re rocking out until they stop.” Luckily, we barely had a chance to catch our breath, shake off the sweat, and acknowledge the instrumental prowess before us before it was all over.