It’s possible that the Southbank Centre in London has never heard such a colossal roar as when Sacramento alt-metallers Deftones walk on stage at Robert Smith’s Meltdown. It’s also probably the first time that Chino Moreno’s baggy-trousered band have played in a concert hall where their fans are moshing in tiered boxes. But their widescreen distortion is made for the room’s crystalline sound system and, with their usual arena show shrunk to fit a more intimate stage, the sensation is of being inside an incredibly expensive, incredibly loud music video.
There’s no new album to promote since 2016’s Gore – their first since bassist Chi Cheng died in 2013. So tonight, instead, marks 18 years since the release of Deftones’ White Pony, their experimental left turn from their previous nu-metal thrash. They open with the sexy shred and ethereal static of that album’s Feiticeira and Digital Bath, reaching for epic rather than ear-splintering. Meanwhile a trio of sweeping songs – Sextape, Diamond Eyes and Phantom Bride – flirt with the accessible side of their serrated emo.
That isn’t to say that their set isn’t deliciously heavy, with bursts of unfettered aggro in My Own Summer (Shove It) and in Moreno’s bat-level screeching, while he swings his microphone as if it’s an Olympic sport. Thirty years in, though, Deftones’ sweet spot is in their more measured, meditative crunch.
In tribute to Meltdown’s curators, a cover of the Cure’s If Only Tonight We Could Sleep finds them evoking Radiohead, another cerebral band to whom they are routinely compared. And yet they are still not awarded the same reverence. If more people heard the shoegaze sludge of Minerva, which erupts with just as much gusto as any My Bloody Valentine crescendo in the encore, perhaps that could finally change.