The Mars Volta at the House of Blues | October 7

Not even a (minor) set malfunction could put a damper on the energy coursing through the House of Blues last night. Mid-set, one corner of the gigantic, glowing, psychedelic screen behind the band slipped free of its tether and made a break for the stage floor. “Looks like we’re having a Spinal Tap moment,” vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala remarked idly, as the stage crew hustled to pull the errant screen back into place.

Crisis averted, the Mars Volta quickly got back to the task at hand: putting the wall-to-wall crowd into a prog-rock-induced trance. Lulled, or perhaps pounded, into submission by Bixler-Zavala’s hypnotic vocals backed by guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and an adept team armed with keyboards, synthesizers, and light machines, the Mars Volta held the audience captive for the entirety of their frenetic, relentlessly intense two-hour show.

Needing, perhaps, no introduction, the band headlined the HoB solo. Bixler-Zavala strutted around the stage tirelessly, kicking out the mic stand and catching it with a single hand in a way that came off as effortlessly cool. (But you just know it must have taken at least a few backstage attempts to master.) The same mic stand was also subjected to some very suggestive gyrations and hip thrusts which sent the crowd, men and women alike, into a serious frenzy. There were a couple of moments when Bixler-Zavala, ceding the spotlight to Rodriguez-Lopez’s adroit manipulations of his instrument, performed an impromptu dance move I can only liken to an Irish step dance fueled by acid. But I liked it.

Their set list struck a nice balance between some crowd favorites and a few things new and different, which the crowd more than welcomed. Except, perhaps, for one guy sporting a crisp new white “Mars Volta” baseball cap (c’mon, man, don’t be that guy) who bee-lined for the bar when Bixler-Zavala announced “Teflon,” a song off their new record, Octahedron, which dropped this past August. (Written, by the way, as a response to “the new world order,” according to Bixler-Zavala.) The same guy screamed his approval, however, when Bixler-Zavala moaned the opening lines to “The Widow,” a sentiment echoed by the whirling-dervish crowd.

The show’s sole downside came at the end of their set: When Bixler-Zavala murmured, “Thank you, Boston,” and the band exited the stage, the bright lights of reality flooded the venue and then stayed lit -- no encore for us. But to be honest, after a performance that good, to demand an encore would just be plain greedy.

-Alexandra Cavallo

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