The Chapel, San Francisco
December 4, 2023
Photos by Geoffrey Smith
Something that’s always thrilling is when a popular band plays a venue that’s too small to contain their talent and popularity. Such was the case when Crosses played two sold-out shows at The Chapel in San Francisco at the beginning of December. The brainchild of Chino Moreno (Deftones, Team Sleep) and Shaun Lopez (Far), Crosses has seen a resurgence since the release of their self-titled debut in 2014 due to the release of this year’s new album, Goodnight, God Bless, I Love U, Delete. With an hour before doors opened for the first show, the line to get into the venue was having to loop back around in front of the entrance to the venue.
Right before Chino and Shaun took to the stage, the rear stage curtains were pulled back, revealing three large crosses. The crowd hollered and applauded as the two came on, and soon the stuttering synths that start the song “Invisible Hand” began playing. Chino slinked across the stage, singing “Ready or not, we’ve started a game, the rules are few and empty,” as the crowd screamed back every single word. The lighting was stark and minimal, mostly backlighting, creating a silhouette of Moreno while Shaun assaulted his guitar as the three crosses pulsed white light behind the two. Once the song ended, the crowd enthusiastically erupted.
As the show continued, it became evident that, despite being the front-man of one of the most popular alternative metal bands in recent years, Chino Moreno can still control a crowd a tenth of the size of what his other band can normally play to. He made sure to thank the audience after every song, and, when handed something by a fan, said, “Oh wow, thank you! I love it! … What is it?” Reaching into the crowd of fans during and between songs, shaking hands, and always having a smile on his face, you could tell how much he was enjoying himself while playing new and old songs in the Crosses catalogue.
And then there’s Shaun Lopez. The instrumentalist had two stands set up behind Chino: one with a synthesizer on it, which he would play while also playing the guitar strapped around him. And then there was a second stand which seemingly had a pedal steel guitar placed across it as well as another synthesizer. It was interesting to discover first-hand by being at the show that a lot of the crunchy textures all over the songs of Crosses are accomplished by his guitar, when I thought that they were surely synthetic sounds.
Despite some heavy beats and percussive noises, the music of Crosses is the perfect ground for Chino to lay his one-of-a-kind singing voice over. Chino has never made it a secret that some of his biggest influences are alternative bands from the 80s like Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Cocteau Twins, and the music makes those influences glaringly apparent. There were moments during the show where he would let out the kind of ear-splitting scream that’s on some of the heavier songs in the Deftones catalogue, but for the most part his crooning chops were center stage. Songs like “Pleasure” and “Vivien” were the perfect showcases for this, with the crowd singing along to every single song that the band played, as if they were all everyone’s favorite song.
The main set ended with the song “Big Youth” from this year’s sophomore album. The song found Chino returning to the rapped nu-metal vocals that he used on Deftones’ 1995 debut Adrenaline, and the album version features a verse rapped by El-P of Run The Jewels. This verse was played over the PA, as Chino stomped around the stage and hyped the audience up before the song came to a frantic close, Chino crying, “These tears run dry!” before it all came to and end. The sound of the crowd was deafening as Chino and Shaun exited the stage, the three crosses frantically vibrating white light.
Before long the two returned to the stage. Chino and Shaun thanked the audience before playing two songs from their debut, “Telepathy” and “Option.” By the end of the night, it felt like the band had played nearly every song in their too-small catalogue. Of course there were songs that didn’t get played, but if you had asked someone to make their dream setlist by the band, I would bet you money that it would closely resemble the one that Crosses played at this show. The band is going to be playing larger venues in February and March, and while I’m sure that those shows will be something to behold, they won’t hold a candle to the energy and intimacy of seeing them at a small venue like The Chapel. But you should still see them regardless of where they play.
Opening up the evening was DJ Crook from Sacramento. Best known as the DJ of Team Sleep (another band that feature Chino Moreno), he started out his set with a remix of “Kiss Them For Me” by Siouxsie and the Banshees before going into deeper sonic territory, from 70s disco deep cuts to “Vitamin C” by Can. The entire performance culminated with the premier of his new music video for the song “Red Ants” from his upcoming album The Number Of The Beats Vol. 1.