PERFORMING ARTS

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Coheed and Cambria

In rock's post-"Spinal Tap" era, it's not easy to wear a double-neck guitar with a straight face. But Claudio Sanchez, frontman for Coheed and Cambria, did just that when he came to the stage at a sold-out 9:30 club on Monday -- and darned if he didn't make it work. Sanchez didn't need all those strings, of course. But the instrument's unnecessary gigantitude blended right in with the rest of the band's 90-minute set.

The New York-based opus rockers are now touring behind a CD titled (buckle in, readers): "Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV: Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness." Many of the song titles from the CD -- which band members have described as a concept album that serves as a soundtrack to a comic book they've also created -- are equally wieldy and nonsensical (to wit: "Willing Well II: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness"). The band's name also comes from its own comics.

The stage featured all the trappings of '70s hard rock, including a guillotine, a scary logo (a collage of circles and triangles intertwined into a sort of satanic pretzel) and religious imagery, highlighted by a huge poster of some Jesus-looking dude. The quartet's music had just as many vintage touchstones. On "Welcome Home," bassist Michael Todd and drummer Joshua Eppard picked and pounded out a Led Zeppelinesque bottom end while Sanchez and rhythm guitarist Travis Stever copped riffs from "Kashmir" (a tune by rock's least ironic double-neck wearer, Jimmy Page). Sanchez, who has an afro big enough to make Ben Wallace jealous, conjured up Geddy Lee while shrieking "The Suffering."

The night's big power ballad, "Wake Up," found Sanchez plucking an acoustic guitar, "Dust in the Wind"-style, and promising his love interest, "I'll kill anyone for you." Not everything about the show was dark, however: "Blood Red Summer" and "A Favor House Atlantic" were downright bouncy pop.

Someday Sanchez may confess that the titles and the comic-book concept and the double-necks and everything else about CoCa, as the obsessives have dubbed the band, are all a big joke. But the fans that pumped fists at all the right places (and packed the club floor so tightly that there wasn't even room for a mosh pit until late in the show) didn't look eager to hear the punch line.

-- Dave McKenna

Nicolas Dautricourt And Eric Le Sage

The concert space at La Maison Francaise is a modest auditorium, but there were moments Monday night when Nicolas Dautricourt transformed it into a space as cozy as a living room.

During an ambitious 90-minute program, the French violinist was clearly at his best with quiet and intimate material, like the slow movement of Robert Schumann's Sonata No. 2. Here, Dautricourt captured the tenderness of a lullaby. Though his playing was solid, the performance lacked passion and pizzazz. Pianist Eric Le Sage was a good partner, playing cleanly and never overpowering the violinist.

Le Sage had a chance to shine on his own in George Crumb's "A Little Suite for Christmas" for piano. His supple approach and sprightly touch captured the wit and irony of the piece. He was at ease with Crumb's extended techniques, strumming, slapping and dampening the strings on the inside of the piano.

"Fezzan" for solo violin by Frenchman Pascal Zavaro was stirring in its simplicity. The accuracy of Dautricourt's double-stops produced a much richer texture than one would expect from a single violin. Toru Takemitsu's "Hika" (Elegy) for violin and piano received a sensitive and expressive reading from both performers.

The two burst into the jocular rhythms of Francis Poulenc's Sonata for Violin and Piano as if to quash the quietness that had permeated the program thus far.

The concert was part of a contemporary music series at La Maison Francaise, which continues with a chamber music recital in December.

-- Gail Wein


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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