Baroness

Baroness at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA, June 2, 2017,

Jun 13, 2017 Photography by Jimmy Hubbard Web Exclusive
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To see Baroness perform live is to witness fire and fury. A blue flame of intensity. Something much more than the sum of its parts. It's unburdened but intricate, unleashed yet precise. At a one-off show celebrating the "Birth Day" anniversary of Ardmore, PA's Tired Hands Brewing Company before heading to tour overseas, Baroness' 90-minute set on June 2 exemplified all of this and more. 

Opening the evening's festivities was a half hour set by Arkansas' Pallbearer, melodic and riff-heavy metal that sufficiently whetted the appetites of those who came to the venue early. Following Pallbearer was Philadelphia's own Nothing, which dazzled with a terrific 45-minute set that fit perfectly in the space between indie and metal, with a sprinkle of shoegaze thrown in for good measure. In a set that featured a shout out to Lorazepam and two masked mutants skulking stage right, the band stoked their hometown crowd's exuberance.

By 10:30 PM, the sellout crowd sufficiently primed on beer and metal, Baroness came to the stage, opening with "Kerosene," "Morningstar," and "Shock Me," all off their excellent fourth album, Purple. By "Shock Me," the crowd was singing every word. Purple is an album that, despite the brilliance of Yellow & Green, Blue Record, and Red Album before it, sounds very much like a breakout work for the band. Recorded with Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, anyone?), Purple effortlessly balances the furious metal of the band's past with anthemic rock and more nuanced fare (see the gentle, atmospheric intro to "Chlorine & Wine"). The band would play 7 of the album's 10 tracks on this night.

This evening's performance was also notable for being only the second for Baroness' new guitarist, Philadelphia's own Gina Gleason, who recently took over for Pete Adams. Gleason asserted herself brilliantly. Her virtuosic shredding, along with heaps of bountiful energy and intensity, lifted the band to great heights. Watching her and frontman/guitarist John Baizley riff face to face in harmonic bliss was a joy.

Following the opening triple play from the band's most recent album, Baroness backtracked to Yellow & Green for another trio, "Green Theme," "Board Up the House," and "Little Things," before unearthing "The Sweetest Curse," from 2009's Blue Record.

The most cathartic moment of the night came with "Tower Falls," the first song the band ever wrote, for its debut EP. Baizley's scream pierced the night as the song bulldozed, a ball of fury and heavy as lead (forgive the idiomatic onslaught). "If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?)" followed, bringing the band back to its present with a huge groove and dueling harmony guitars. "Try To Disappear," also from Purple, with its "Run Like Hell"-esque intro, found the crowd once again screaming the lyrics (of course it's debatable whether they ever stopped).

Baizley thanked the band's friends and family who came out to the show, before launching into "Chlorine and Wine," a track which was rendered even more intense than its recorded counterpart (if that's possible). By the night's final song, "Take My Bones Away," Baroness had left no doubt as to whom the best metal band on earth was. Cathartic. Intense. Revelatory. Its live prowess not only lived up to, but exceeded the precedent set by its ball-breaking studio albums. Gleason (it's worth reiterating here that she is brand new to the band) not only fit in but carved a path within the songs.

It was a fun-filled Friday "Birth Day" night for Tired Hands Brewing Company and a brilliant reminder of the power and potency of metal at its finest, Baroness. Head banging shoulder to shoulder with strangers, collectively enrapt in the music, was a sight to behold and an experience like no other. With its one-off show behind it, the band now heads to Europe. Let's hope they come back very soon. The metal masses await.

(www.yourbaroness.com)

(www.bandofnothing.com)

(www.palbearerdoom.com)

(www.tiredhands.com)




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