I’ve never claimed to be a metal head, but something about a band named Baroness and it’s supporting act, Mutoid Man, intrigued me greatly. With a reputable pair of earplugs firmly tucked away in my breast pocket, I figured I had little to lose.
As headliner, Baroness and their latest LP Purple have a peculiar history, one of survival and catharsis. Following a near fatal bus crash in 2012, the band splintered, seeing the departure of founding drummer Allen Blickle and bassist Matt Maggioni whilst leaving frontman John Baizley to rebuild virtually alone.
Triumphantly, the Savannah, Georgia sludge metal quartet (now with two new members) have assembled an album of undeniable hooks, melodies and crossover appeal. Unanimously praised by the press, fan support has been fervent, no more evident than a sold-out engagement at Toronto’s The Opera House.
Prior to their appearance, Mutoid Man graced the stage in what would come close to stealing the entire evening. With lead vocals and blistering fretwork by Stephen Brodsky, drummer Ben Koller and bassist Nick Cageao rounded out the trio, mischievously mashing metallic propulsion with classic-rock extravagance.
Regularly egging the crowd with his charismatic bellow, Brodsky injected an unsuspected jolt of humour and hijinks as the band ripped into their set, first paying respect to Prince with a hard-core cover of “Purple Rain” then offering cuts from their debut LP Bleeder. My respect for the hirsute hooligans was instantaneous.
Not to be outdone, or out-amplified, Baroness strode out to the eager audience in a wash of purple and a piped in horn symphony. The alt-metal warriors had arrived.
The majority of their set came from the aforementioned Purple, as well as Yellow & Green, a fact clarified by a zealous Baroness devotee who stood adjacent to me, uproariously approving each song with an unabashed “eff-yeah!”
Later, this bleary-eyed concertgoer would prove helpful, listing the name of each song upon my inquiry.
Rightfully so, tracks I would later discover to be “Chlorine and Wine,” “The Gnashing” and “Isak” threw the audience into a frenzy, initially leaving myself to listen in awe without context.
As part of Toronto’s vibrant Canadian Music Week, Baroness played the city with conviction and power. As much as they like to experiment on record, they continue to be an exemplary live outfit of technique and gratitude. Closing out the show with open arms and wide smiles, the band parted with a genuine: “Toronto, we’ll see you as soon as we possibly can.”
Lucky for me, I had dislodged my protective earplugs by that point to take in every moment.
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Review and Photos by Myles Herod |