The "Octahedron" Era
Since its inception in 2001 The Mars Volta always seemed to be building and growing; longer songs, more members, bigger set pieces, more equipment, and more bad online flash games promoting their albums. When Octahedron was announced it was the first time in eight years that the band had taken a step back and scaled down. Band members Adrián Terrazas-González and Paul Hinojos had also been removed from the group, a demonstration of the downsizing the band was beginning to partake in and would continue to do until their break-up in 2012. Differing accounts exist for the reason for this downsizing, ranging from an active artistic choice to simplify to it was no longer financially viable to tour such a massive cartel of members.
Other examples of the band simplifying were seen in the shortened shows, going from about two and a half hours in 2008 to about ninety minutes. Songs which were notorious for long improvisations, jams, and additional codas such as Drunkship of Lanterns and Goliath returned nearly to their original album run-time. The stage was also considerably less cluttered, (aside from Pridgen's notorious gong) not only due to the decrease in personnel, but in the apparent downsizing in pedals and effects, hand-percussion, and keyboards. The setlists from show to show did not drastically change as much as they did during the Frances and Bedlam tours either, with the only considerable change coming during late in the tour when Thomas Pridgen left the band and Dave Elitch took over on drums. Yes, for fifth time in the band's history there was a change in drummer.
Although the shows were parred down and simplified, fans at the time celebrated the return of classics such as Inertiatic ESP, The Widow, and Eunuch Provocateur (Which was only briefly resurrected in the previous tour). The second leg of the European Tour brought back L'via L'Viaquez Eriatarka, and brought about the full-band debut of Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. Some attendees even argued that the smaller core line-up meant shows had cleaner mixes and had less of a tendency to get muddled. On the other hand many felt the band seemed less enthusiastic as before and simply going through the paces.
The United States leg of the tour was significant in that it marked the end of the road for drummer Thomas Pridgen. During a sound check in Raleigh, North Carolina on October 23rd, 2009, the band abruptly stopped, had a disagreement on-stage, and Thomas was quickly fired from the band. The show was cancelled shortly before the doors opened. The back-and-forth between members of the band and Thomas started immediately on various social media channels, claiming all sorts of strange things (like Cedric claiming Thomas had fathered a child with a woman in Russia while on tour, and Thomas claiming the band owed him money and that he had, in fact, written the drum parts for Bedlam that Omar had taken credit for it). The final word on what led to his exiting is not clear. The consistent narrative appears to be Thomas being young and less mature compared to the older and mores seasoned veterans. Various interviews after the fact provide interesting anecdotes that while entertaining can not be confirmed. Still, despite behind the scenes drama some of these North America shows have been well regarded and praised such as their appearance at Bonnaroo, which despite a false start on Goliath due to Omar being out of tune, features a ripping version of Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus, and their show in Houston on 9/17/2009 which showed the band could still launch a powerful performance even if it was by the numbers.
The band then tapped Dave Elitch to come in and play drums during the European and Australian legs of the tour (starting back up a month later). Dave's deep adoration for Jon Theodore's original parts meant that while his performances may not have brought a new dynamic to the shows, deep respect would be given to the original material. Despite Dave focusing on delivering a replica of past drummer's work instead of adding his own style there were highlights to be noted. His work on jams during Eriatarka and Cicatriz ESP are especially of note, especially considering both songs had been absent from the band's live repertoire for years and the previous leg of the tour had minimal jams. While the European shows have been praised for the introduction of new life into the shows, the Australian leg has a more mixed reaction, as it seemed Omar and Cedric were simply frustrated with, for the second time in the band's inception, having to hobble across the finish line of a tour. The Octahedron tour ended in 2010 on a somewhat deflated note with a brief festival run in South America where Isaiah Owens was no longer present and Cedric's vocals were considerably worse than just a few months prior, something he acknowledged himself on social media. Although not held in the highest regard, the shows did feature unique and well-respected renditions of Eriatarka, Cicatriz ESP, and introduced fans to Interceptions (From Omar's solo album Gorilla Preacher Cartel) that would dovetail future renditions of The Malkin Jewel.
Despite doing what can be considered a stellar job with the limited time provided Dave Elitch would be replaced by Deantoni Parks. In fact, future interviews would suggest Dave was never formally considered a member of the band, instead a hired gun to fill spot temporarily as the band transitioned to their next formation. The Mars Volta would take a nearly three hiatus before releasing their follow-up and final album Noctourniquet during which time the various members would engage in their own solo projects. The Octahedron tour has few defenders in contrast to previous tours. The earlier shows were rife with internal drama which appeared to result in truncated and less than motivated performances. Still, for a band in crunch mode they were able to put out a few memorable shows.