Baroness

support Closet Disco Queen
author AP date 31/03/16 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

I have to be honest: given the minuscule amount of promotion that preceded Baroness’ long-awaited return to Danish soil, I had feared the worst for tonight’s turnout. This is, after all, a band which feeds off its audience, and it has been the most jam-packed, intimate shows where they have been best. To my pleasant surprise however, VEGA is already bustling well before the scheduled start time of the opening act, meaning that there must be plenty of sworn fans here eager to conquer the front row and give Baroness the energy they need to deliver a tantalising show. Read on to find out the degree to which they succeeded in doing so.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Closet Disco Queen

Initially, when this Swiss drum-and-guitar duo from La Chaux-de-Fonds was announced as the lone support act for tonight’s show, I had my grumbles. Only five days prior, Kulturbolaget in Malmö across the bridge had been graced by Bombus occupying the slot, and I found myself dismissing the ‘Disco Queen as far inferior without any sort of prior knowledge about them or their music. Very prejudiced, I know. Fortunately, the two musicians are far from disappointing, exuding the kind of energy that you absolutely need in order to compensate for the limited personnel, and dishing out riff after riff of instrumental stoner rock in best Karma to Burn fashion. With no bassist in sight, you might expect the music to suffer from a lack of low end punch, but remarkably, Jona Nido somehow plays both rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously, often striking huge five- and six-string chords that leave little to be desired in both the low and high end of the spectrum. It sounds fucking cool, and with Luc Hess filling the gaps with his elaborately jagged, animated percussion, Closet Disco Queen manages to sound like, and occupy as much visual space as a full band.

Indeed, Nido and Hess’ wild antics on stage, helped along by the healthy gulps — not sips — they take from a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, seem to take most of the audience by surprise. But the two also have a telepathic understanding of each other’s tradecraft which enables them repeatedly to throw themselves into slick jams that then flower into songs like “The Shag Wag”. That track is preceded by cool Western-style instrumentation before its sleazy, bangin’-in-the-backseat drive takes over, whilst the evening’s final song (the title of which escapes me) sees them whisk up a brooding blues ballad with deft post-rock incorporations, aided by a second guitarist (a guitar technician, perhaps?). It ends like most of the (short) show has passed: with all three madly rocking out much to the crowd’s liking. It is an eye-opening performance then, hampered only by the inevitable irregularities that the two musicians’ obvious intoxication brings along. Still, the show leaves you wanting to see these guys doing their own headlining show in a more suitable, intimate setting.

7

Baroness

By the time the curtains split to reveal the main act, the venue must be near sold out capacity. Not that it should surprise anyone — the quartet’s previous show in Copenhagen had Loppen struggling even to fit all the ticket holders. And just like that time, Baroness treat the occasion as a celebration of being alive, being able to push on as a band, to continue doing what they love. Well, frontman John Baizley and his trusty cohort, guitarist Pete Adams that is, as former bassist Matt Maggioni and drummer Allen Blickle are no longer with them after the horrific bus crash that nearly put an end to Baroness altogether. Baizley and Adams now ply their trade with bassist/synth player Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson, both of whom feature on the group’s latest outing ”Purple”, and as such, it is no surprise that half of tonight’s setlist consists of material from that record. Another six tracks have been sourced from the similar-in-style ”Yellow & Green“, leaving space for just two older songs, and while the decision is sure to irk some contingent of fans, it is easy to understand — after all, it must be awkward to try to personify songs you had no involvement in.

Nonetheless, opening track “Kerosene” is plagued by just that, an awkward sensation, as Baizley & co. attempt to gauge the mood and temperature of the audience. But once its last notes are subdued and the venue erupts into deafening applause and cheering, so too does the enthusiasm for which Baroness is renowned begin to colour the musicians’ expression. The band looks absolutely riveting as they rip through loud and heavy, crisp renditions of “March to the Sea” and “Morningstar”, rocking out with blazing elation. Impressed with the crowd’s participation already, Baizley repeatedly raises his guitar skyward and roars ”Come on!”, in a bid to rile us up even more — successfully, as the moshing activity during “Shock Me” testifies. In general the atmosphere at VEGA is uplifting, though admittedly the proceedings never fall off the hinges or become quite as intensely personal as they were at Loppen two-and-a-half years ago. Perhaps it was the collective relief and euphoria of band and audience to be able to be in that situation despite what had happened; now the audience at least seems to take the band’s labour for granted, and as a result, the reaction is a little more subdued.

But although sweat might not be pouring down the walls, and people might not be all teary-eyed this time, there is no denying Baroness’ qualifications as an entertaining, and deeply absorbing live act. Even slower and quieter tracks like “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?)” and “Little Things” work surprisingly well, with the former inciting what sounds like the loudest woohs yet. I had my reservations about that song when I first heard it on “Purple”, but tonight it feels just right — not as a breathing break, but as a moment of true emotion. Following the lounge-y “Fugue” however, from then on it is full steam ahead culminating in the galloping “Gnashing” off the “Blue” record, and although I am saddened by the omission of “Try to Disappear” (my personal favourite off “Purple”, which has been played on almost every other date on this tour), an immensely passionate take on “EULA” compensates for it and has my eyes glossing over with liquid.

An interesting revelation which strikes me in the encore, is how messy and jagged “Isak” — the lone representative for the “Red” album tonight — sounds compared to the “Purple”, “Yellow” and “Green” material. That it features on the début album suddenly makes so much sense, and although that effort still has a special place in my heart, it is so obvious that Baroness have matured into much more skilled songwriters since then. The live staple “Take My Bones Away” further solidifies my conviction of this, conjuring the loudest sing-song of the evening and concluding the show on a triumphant note. Baroness’ best Danish showing this may not be, but the band still exhibits a level of fervour you would wish more bands had, for thrashing around like rock stars and assigning movement to the moods and atmospheres in their music.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. Kerosene
  • 02. March to the Sea
  • 03. Morningstar
  • 04. Shock Me
  • 05. Board Up the House
  • 06. Green Theme
  • 07. Little Things
  • 08. The Iron Bell
  • 09. If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?)
  • 10. Fugue
  • 11. Chlorine & Wine
  • 12. Desperation Burns
  • 13. EULA
  • 14. The Gnashing

— Encore —

  • 15. Isak
  • 16. Take My Bones Away

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXIX Rockfreaks.net.