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Concert Review: Baroness

Concert Review: Baroness

Some of the best metal, such as the music of Baroness, offers euphoric payoffs despite its rugged darkness.

(Photo: Enric Lamarca Rizo)

“Is the singer scary?” my friend emailed me in the middle of Baroness’ set last week at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom. It’s interesting that as an overarching genre, metal is considered frightening. It is easy to get confused as some sub-genres, such as black metal, can be genuinely terrifying. Yet, some of the best metal, such as the music of Baroness, offers euphoric payoffs despite its rugged darkness.

Despite the face tattoos, Motörhead T-shirts and a heavily male demographic, the crowd at the Portland show did little to intimidate. Two guys moshed for a moment, but the rest of the crowd remained respectively locked in for the band’s 90 minute performance. A lesser review would likely tie Baroness’ soaring songs to an elation of survival (the band was involved in a near fatal bus accident in 2012, which saw two members leave the band). But I have seen Baroness pre-accident, and front man John Baizely has always been appreciative of the crowd.

With his shaved head, bushy, dark beard and shouted vocals, Baizely could cut an imposing figure. However, there was something inclusive about his performance. He smiled, nodded and pointed to fans and thanked everyone for coming out for the show. Kicking off with the one-two punch of “Kerosene” and “March to the Sea,” Baroness incited the crowd to get lost in their world of darkness. The 16-song setlist leaned heavily on new album, Purple, but the band also dug back into its catalog.

Though the sound does vary, the typical structure for a Baroness song is a quiet intro, followed with a speedy refrain before lifting into a major chord chorus. Baizely and the rest of the band are also amazingly gifted musicians. Lead guitarist Pete Adams can absolutely shred, and his backing vocals were so spot-on it sounded like Baizely was double tracked. The secret weapon, however, was bassist Nick Jost who stood back from the front of the stage, shirtless and absolutely wowing with his prowess on the instrument.

Filmed live for Yahoo!/Live Nation TV, the show was an ecstatic blast of rock ‘n’ roll. The club roiled with excitement, and despite the stuffiness inside, we sweated and shouted along to the songs. The band finished the first set by reaching back to “The Gnashing” from Blue Record and then thrilled old fans when it returned for an encore featuring “Isak” from 2007’s Red Album. Though “Eula” and “Back Where I Belong” didn’t make an appearance, the show-closer “Take My Bones Away” from Yellow & Green was absolutely amazing. Baizely and Adams appeared to revel in connecting with the crowd. It was a quite a show.

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