March To The Sea: Baroness Live in Lawrence, KS 12/2/15
With three (soon to be four) critically acclaimed albums, countless headlining and support slots on tours with everyone from Metallica and Mastodon to Clutch and Opeth, Baroness is easily one of the frontrunners for the face of American heavy metal in the 21st century. In the run-up to the release of their 4th album Purple, the band has taken to the road for a short tour playing small venues (especially for how popular the band is nowadays) and to perform some new material for the first time live.
The last time Baroness was in Lawrence they headlined a packed Granada, so it was a bit jarring when they first announced this show at the Jackpot – but intimate shows are where Baroness shines. The group took to the stage and immediately started interacting with the crowd: “Hey John, how’s it going?” someone in the audience would yell out, and guitarist/vocalist/de facto leader of Baroness John Baizely would laugh and respond, “It’s going great!” It was just bits and pieces of interaction between craftsmen and the lovers of that craft that make small shows like these instantly special. Baroness kicked off their 90 minute set with The Sweetest Curse, a heavy number from their 2009 breakout Blue Record. The group would then spend most of the rest of the set off their latest double-album release Green & Yellow and previewing upcoming Purple songs. While March to the Sea and Eula garnered significant crowd response, and some more passionate members of the throng of people at the near-capacity Jackpot had already learned the words to Chlorine & Wine and Shock Me despite being unreleased, Baroness closed their main set with The Gnashing, maybe the best track off of Blue Record. Returning to the stage for an encore, Baroness thanked the crowd and launched into a menacing rendition of Isak off their debut Red Album and ended the night with the epic Take My Bones Away. A raucous, bone-chilling capitulation to an intimate show from one of the best bands around, on the precipice of launching into the next stage of their career – and the sky is the limit.
For small venues everywhere (and really just venues in general), a band like Baroness can be hard to mix correctly in a live setting. There are lots of undercurrents and slow-burns to their carefully crafted melodies, but also sometimes they just like to rock out. The Jackpot mix was outstanding – actually Baroness may have been the best sounding band I’ve personally ever heard at the venue. Heavy when it needed to be, and accentuating all the right technical minutiae when appropriate to create a clear and loud soundscape. Very impressive.
Opening the show was a Virginia-based quartet called Earthling who were about the exact polar opposite of Baroness. Earthling is a straight-up, no-frills death/thrash metal band and they, in this writer’s opinion, kicked ass and shredded faces. This is the metal that has blast-beats, death growls, dueling guitar solos and riffs for days and it was amazing and the exact opposite of who should be opening for Baroness but sill warmed the crowd up sufficiently.
1. Sweetest Curse
2. March to the Sea
3. Board Up the House
4. Chlorine & Wine
6. Green Theme
7. Sea Lungs
8. Shock Me
11. The Gnashing
13. Take My Bones Away