Baroness @ Urban Lounge 08.30

Posted September 5, 2013 in

Baroness. Photo: Melinda Oswandel
Some bands become defined by tragedy. It would be easy to lump Baroness into that category, but after surviving a disastrous bus crash while touring Europe last year, the band has returned to touring, and with a vengeance. Baroness is a band defined by triumph. The band played to a crowded Urban Lounge on Friday night, and as John Baizley and Pete Adams thrashed about the stage throughout Baroness’ 90-minute set, one couldn’t help but think of the performance as a celebration of life. Baroness belongs on the stage. There is no way they would let a little thing like a traumatic bus crash keep them from that.

Metal shows at Urban are an interesting affair. When a band with clout in the metal, hipster and hipster/metal worlds plays at the Salt Lake venue, it draws an interesting cross section of audience members. Girls with gigantic glasses and stylishly sloppy hairbuns stood elbow to elbow with cigarette-stained longhairs. Before the band took the stage, it was hard to navigate towards the bar or to the front of the stage—it’s been a while since I’ve seen Urban this crowded, and frankly, I was a little surprised. I was definitely looking forward to seeing Baroness live, especially since a minor setback (ahem) prevented them from touring through our city last year, but I didn’t realize they had such a big following in Salt Lake.

The house music was cut, the band (guitarists Baizley and Adams and new members Sebastian Thomson and Nick Jost) took the stage to deafening applause. After a brief intro to establish the mood, Baroness launched into “Take My Bones Away” from last year’s epic double album Yellow & Green. I must admit, Yellow & Green is not my favorite set of Baroness material. It is a bit of a departure from their heavier edged early material, but seeing the songs played live may have converted me to the Yellow & Green side. Baizley’s voice was clear and thunderous, as he bellowed the song’s seemingly prophetic lyrics from the stage, and he and Adams were barely able to keep their energy on the stage, thrusting their guitars over the crowd and towards each other as huge, maniacal smiles covered their faces.

Thomson played a surprisingly sparse drumkit with aplomb, and he and Jost sounded like they had been part of the band for years rather than months, but this was clearly Baizley and Adams’ show. Both were incredibly fun to watch as they masterfully shredded through Yellow & Green tunes such as “March to the Sea,” “Board Up the House” and “Cocainium.” The band also treated the crowd to a few older tunes, namely “A Horse Called Golgotha” and “Swollen and Halo” from their Blue record. Immersed in the crowd and doing my best to push myself from the back of the room to the front of the stage (where I never quite made it), I was surprised by how many people were singing along every single word to every single song. Hipster kids and the neck-tattooed set were equally stoked on the sounds pouring from the stage, and it was hard not to be fully swept away by the tidal wave of energy—I never thought I’d see girls twerking to Baroness, but now I have.

At one point, a naked woman suddenly appeared on stage. At first I thought Adams had just taken his shirt off, but nope—those were legit boobs. She vanished as quickly as she arrived with surprisingly little reaction coming from the crowd and no mention of it from the band until they moved into their closing salvo of songs. I’ve been going to shows regularly for about 15 years, and have somehow never managed to see a fully naked person at a concert, so I’m glad I got to experience that at a Baroness show. Thanks, guys. Speaking of the end of their set, it was fucking incredible. “Eula” is one of the most haunting and entertaining songs from Yellow & Green and I was dying to hear it performed live. It is restrained yet powerful, tragic yet passionate. Baizley’s voice was on point the entire night, transitioning from more delicate passages to intense yowls, and it was nowhere more noticeable than during “Eula.” The band then closed their set with “The Gnashing” from Blue to a crowd who clearly wanted to hear way more music, so Baroness quickly returned to the stage and announced they would be playing three heavy songs.

They definitely delivered on that promise. Songs from the more subdued Yellow & Green had dominated the night up until that point, and though the crowd was rambunctious all night and movement rarely ceased in front of the stage, shit got straight up wacky during the final trio of songs. “The Sweetest Curse” and “Jake Leg” from Blue sent the crowd into a frenzy, prompting security to take a post in the middle of a mini mosh pit (when did Urban start requiring security?) and lighthearted audience members fled into the corners of the venue. That was some heavy shit, but I knew the band had to be saving something big for the grand finale. As Adams rang out the opening notes of “Isak,” I knew that everyone in the crowd would be leaving satisfied. This was the only song the band played from their Red record, but holy fuck, what a choice. Everything about the night suddenly ramped up to ten. More moshing. More headbanging. More twerking. Baizley and Adams shredded even more masterfully and stared at each other even more maniacally. It was a killer closer.

Really, there is no other word for Baroness’ performance than “triumphant.” They may have been delayed in their return to Salt Lake City, but seeing them on stage so full of life and with complete control over the audience, it was clear that they were on top of their game. Screw tragedy. I’ll take triumph any day.
Baroness. Photo: Melinda Oswandel Baroness. Photo: Melinda Oswandel