Concert Review: Baroness
Posted by Mark/Angel
To be writing this concert report is slightly surreal to say the least, given the circumstances that unfolded the day after, but I feel motivated to give my thoughts on the happier side of events, the Tuesday evening filled with enjoyable music and excitable people in a small venue in Bristol. Several other gigs were on in the area at that time, but I was certainly glad to be attending this one, despite only knowing the headliner’s latest release Yellow & Green. But first, to describe the venue.
The Fleece in Bristol is a bar-cum-gig venue, relatively small in size and anti-moshpit in setup: several support poles that would be quite painful to run headlong into. That aside (and thankfully Baroness are not a moshpit band), it has a cozy atmosphere, particularly with the posters adorning the walls (Muse, The Dandy Warhols and Amy Winehouse to name a few), and a decent view of the stage from everywhere in the venue. And so, eventually the lights dimmed and the first band were up: local lads Black Elephant.
Unassuming as they took the stage, the trio nevertheless attracted people’s attention from the get-go, particularly instrumentally. Caught between the desert-rock riffs and psychedelic atmosphere, each of the band’s tracks were quite a journey, with a prominent well-played bass drowning out the slightly tepid grungy vocals. The guitar work was splendid to hear, particularly in the solos, and the new drummer fit in well with the varying rhythms, so much so that I didn’t realize he was new until the vocalist announced him. A very fitting band to open for Baroness, Black Elephant were an enjoyable start to the evening.
Next up were Phlefonyaar, who hit the stage hard with a brand of sludgy hardcore, the vocalist bellowing in people’s faces. Aside from not really fitting the bill (my opinion of course), their set was plagued with issues, including broken equipment. At least they were perfectly audible from the street. A contrast from the band before to avoid three similar bands, but ultimately not what the doctor ordered.
After a break, it was time for the main entertainment, as vocalist/guitarist John Baizley and co took to the stage. The crowd were warm and welcoming as they set up and launched into a set that mixed together their latest/lightest Yellow & Green with the well-established Blue Record, and the material mixed well despite the band’s heavier origins. “Yellow Theme” bled into “A Horse Called Golgotha”. However it was when “March To The Sea” kicked in that the crowd really warmed up, several headbanging along to the catchy guitar melodies and fuzzy low end. The band were as energetic as the crowd, grooving to the music as it crested and swelled. Baizley was a man of few words, but he seemed genuinely struck by the energy in the room (which he mentioned during the set). Miraculously, lead guitarist Peter Adams’ vocals were perfectly audible, and the sound in general was ideal: not pristine but not lost in the sludge. “Take My Bones Away” was certainly a highlight, along with the somber and emotional “Eula”, while the double-closer of “The Sweetest Curse” and “Jake Leg” from Blue were an impressive false-finale.
The chanting of “Ba-ro-ness” brought the band back out for more songs, and potent they were: dusting off two numbers from the depths of their début Red Album proved well-received, particularly the brooding then energetic instrumental “Grad” as closer. So energetic was it, that drummer Allen Blickle leapt several feet in the air as he bashed out its concluding crashes. The audience’s reaction was ecstatic as the final chords rang out, and despite the completely cramped environment, the show was one of the best I’ve witnessed in Bristol. Now all that’s left is to give the band our full support as fans and friends while they recover from the bus crash.