My buddy and I got finished with a quick dinner a few doors down from the venue at CHIPOTLE, BITCHES
just in time to make it over to HOB for Royal Thunder, who had literally started their first tune as we were walking through the front door. It was a song I had never heard before, and although I remember thinking it could have been something from their self-titled EP, I knew that there are no songs on that disc that are around eight minutes long that I'm not familiar with, so I got a bit more stoked when I realized I was probably hearing some new RT material. Speaking of new stuff, it was at about this time that I realized that RT is back to being a three-piece again. Their next song was about six minutes long, and the story was the same as the first. Both songs were similarly good, and heavily featured Mlny's signature vocal style. As she channeled an angsty Janis Joplin, I got to thinking that a new RT album sounded like a damn good idea to me. After ripping through a great version of "Whispering World", they thanked the crowd and announced that their fourth song would be their last, and I knew it was already time for the band's immortal anthem "Blue". As with the last time I had seen them play it (on tour with Pallbearer), it was significantly slowed down, but this time it was even slower as well as further rearranged from the album version. It's as if they reinvent the song every time they play it, and it just keeps getting better.
At any rate, Royal Thunder was excellent as expected. The crowd gave them a decent reception, but I thought they deserved even more than that. I talked to Josh after their set, and he confirmed that the first two songs had been new, that they had several more that were ready, and that they should be recording the follow-up to "CVI" soon. Hell yes. Mlny was at their merch table as well, but she seemed to be deep into a convo with someone else, so I decided not to bug her at the time.
Back inside the venue, we met up with my cousin who is the vocalist for a local "hardcore stoner deathbilly" band called Punching Moses. We talked about the upcoming Baroness set, and although he and others I know haven't warmed up to Yellow and Green
as much as I have over time, I told him that I was confident that not only would the set be pretty well balanced between new and old, but that it just might surprise him how well some of the newer tracks would fit into the set with the rest.
I had no fucking idea how right I actually was.
As with their tour in support of Meshuggah on 2012's Ophidian Trek, the light show was color-coordinated with the albums from which the songs were culled. Baroness's set thus started out in a haze of blue for "Ogeechee Hymnal", which flowed directly into two of Yellow
's best tracks. I noticed that the band's new drummer Sebastian Thomson is every bit the fucking beast I expected him to be after watching videos of him playing with Trans Am. Also, bassist Nick Jost ain't too shabby either. After a ripping version of "Horse", we were treated to an extended and enhanced version of "Green Theme" that was particularly awesome. It was both tear-jerkingly beautiful and ridiculously heavy at the same time. I love how these guys reinvent their own stuff when they play it live and give it even more soul than it has on album.
Another highlight was the green-hued "Board Up the House", which is good but not great on album. Live, though? Holy shit. Not only did Pete and John jam that bitch out on the strings, but the vocal harmonies were awesome. The song was an incredible mix of bluesy Southern influences with classic Baroness heavy guitar work, and it was incredible. So much more impressive live than on album. Switching from green to yellow, they played "Sea Lungs", which ruled as hard as I thought it would, and then they shocked me even more with a rendition of "Cocainium" which made the album version sound like bubble-gum pop music. The rat-a-tat snare sounds from the album version were nowhere to be found as Thomson smashed the skins like they needed to be shown who was the boss up in this bitch.
After these nice surprises, we were all treated to "The Gnashing", which although it has but very few lyrics, is one of the most emotionally-charged songs Baroness has ever written. Always awesome. The only non-surprise was the set closer and lone Red Album
track, "Isak", but just because we knew it was coming didn't mean that it was any less awesome. It's still my favorite track of theirs because it's so heavy and angry in places, yet it's also beautifully melodic and has a great rhythm to it.
Even though I've seen Baroness play a longer set as a headlining act, this might have been the best performance I've seen of theirs yet. Obviously, the life-changing events in Bath, England just over a year ago haven't slowed this band down one bit, and if anything their resolve to be the best they can be has been strengthened. I'm just so glad to have had yet another chance to see and hear them play. This band is just so damned good.
As far as I was concerned, Ghost was merely icing on the cake at this point. I should mention that I didn't respond favorably to Opus Eponymous
, and so I basically blew off Infestissumam
for a while as well. However, I did listen to it eventually, and at first I didn't care much for it. After finding out about this tour, though, I decided to give it a real shot, and I started to like a few tracks. By the time this show came around, I was flat-out addicted to three or four tracks, and to my pleasure thay played all of my favorites. In particular, I enjoyed the two opening tracks of the set, as well as the ridiculously catchy "Year Zero". The crowd absolutely roared at the end of that one. Both of the encore tracks were perfectly chosen, because of how "Guhleh" kicks into high gear at around the three-minute mark and how the end of "Monstrance Clock" is suited to the sing-along that Papa encouraged the crowd into before they played it.
Overall, I would say that Ghost is a bit gimmicky as a band, and this is even more true live - however, the gimmick works for the most part. As long as you don't take them too seriously, it's good fun to watch them do what they do. They're not going to win any awards for being exceptional musicians or songwriters, but I enjoyed their show well enough. The riffs are simple but effective, the sound was great and several of their melodies are quite addictive.
This was a fantastic show. I would recommend everyone out there to go see this if they can, but as I understand it, this show was a one-of-a-kind bill because each of the bands in question have different plans after this stop. So for one night, Cleveburg got lucky for a change. I'll fucking take it. Best show I've been to in a long time, except of course for MDF (which really isn't even a fair comparison).
I got HD videos of RT playing "Blue", most of Baroness's set, and a few Ghost tracks including the first two as well as "Year Zero" (although I think the ending got clipped off because my battery was dying at that point). I'll try to post some vids and / or pics at some point.