19 January 2010
Camden Underworld, London
Our first gig of the new decade certainly turned out to be a popular one with Baroness selling out the Underworld in advance. It was absolutely rammed to the rafters inside and there’s no doubt that next time they return, Baroness will be playing bigger venues. There’s a real buzz about the band right now. Debut album Red Record was well received, but it’s follow up Blue Record has been appearing on many Best Albums of 2009 lists, including my own.
Baroness’ albums are best experienced as an uninterrupted whole and it’s a similar situation with their live show. The music certainly does the talking, with no word addressed to the crowd until the end of the main set and many of the songs merging into each other. The set ebbed and flowed with melodic delicate passages leading to fuzzed colossal riffage. Fellow Georgia behemoths Mastodon are an easy comparison but Baroness are by no means a carbon copy. A vein of classic rock runs through the bands sound, with a passage like Steel That Sleeps The Eye enveloping the crowd in a light warm fuzz of seventies prog. Such moments are juxtaposed with gargantuan riffs and twin guitar interplay that recalls Thin Lizzy or the Allman Brothers with guitarists John Baizley and Peter Adams posing together with guitars held aloft.
Baizley provides the main roar but when required harmonizes with Adams. To their left bassist Summer Welch looks the typical stoner rocker, gently swaying his long mane of hair, whilst grooving tightly with drummer Allen Bickle. Bickle himself works up quite a sweat with an energetic display, though during one chilled passage he rests his head on his drums before slowly raising it as he picked up the beat.
It was an intriguingly mixed crowd, as was their reaction. At moments where Baroness really rocked out you would expect the crowd to move but they appear transfixed by the band on stage. That’s not to say the performance wasn’t well received, as nodding heads and chin stroking give way to rapturous applause and cheers during any break, or lull, between songs. Often at sold out Underworld events, those to the rear of the venue with a very limited view peel away towards the end of a set. However, tonight nobody seemed ready to leave and many at the back seemed content to just listen, given they could see very little.
When the main set came to an end John Baizley gushed with thank-you’s to the crowd obviously touched by the warm response and the packed venue would certainly have left an impression. This was a great way to start of the gigging year and I’m certain we’ll be hearing a lot more about Baroness this year.
As an addendum I must also mention the merchandise. Baroness’ John Baizley is a distinctive artist, providing top album covers and merchandise designs for his own band as well as others such as Kylesa, Darkest Hour, Torche and Skeletonwitch. At £15 each, the shirts were excellent value for money and the stand seemed to be doing a good trade in some fantastic art prints also.
Baroness set list:
Bullhead’s Psalm / The Sweetest Curse / Jake Leg / Machine Gun (Jimi Hendrix cover) / Isak / The Birthing / Ogeechee Hymnal / A Horse Called Golgotha / War, Wisdom and Rhyme / Steel That Sleeps the Eye / Swollen and Halo / The Gnashing / Red Sky / Wanderlust / Grad / Tower Falls