The Baroness show felt as much like a celebration as a concert.
By Jeff Miles
Baroness has returned to the road for the first time since a bus accident in August left the future of the band in question. Less than a week into the tour, a newly revamped lineup brought the band to Center Stage for its first Atlanta concert in several years.
True Widow from Dallas, Texas, opened the show with a distinctive mix of detuned guitars, hypnotic bass lines and breathy vocals that they aptly refer to as “stonegaze.” The low rumble and guitar tone of Acid King with the ethereal quality of Mazzy Star might be an oversimplification of the band, but it’s a start.
With ghostly vocals from both guitarist DH Phillips and bassist Nicole Estill, floating notes and occasional feedback for color, their music evokes acts as disparate as My Bloody Valentine, Cowboy Junkies, and Slowdive. Not your parents’ metal, True Widow doesn’t use volume and distorted guitars to attack, but instead creates a nebulous atmosphere that envelopes and soothes the listener.
Unfortunately, specialized lighting isn’t always available to support acts, but a simple arrangement of color and effects could create a backdrop and mood conducive to a greater appreciation for their music. That being said, sitting on a porch on a humid Southern night with a drink and a candle or two burning could be the best context to absorb True Widow’s music. True Widow is releasing a new record in July through Relapse Records and the band definitely deserves a listen.
Baroness opened its set quietly with the instrumental “Ogeechee Hymnal,” before bursting into “Take My Bones Away” and “March to the Sea.” No one expected Baroness to return to the stage until they were physically able to play their music again, but the energy level of a band that suffered broken arms, legs, fractured vertebrae and various other injuries less than a year ago surprised and electrified the crowd.
New members, bassist Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson, anchored the songs, while the guitar and vocal contingent of John Baizley and Peter Adams blasted through songs from Red Album, Blue Record and Yellow and Green with precision and unhinged emotion. The symbiosis between Baizley and Adams is stronger than it has ever been, and Thomson is already adding some of his signature style to Baroness songs (listen to his band Trans Am.)
Baizley and Adams could not contain their excitement to be back in front of fans as a full band. The crowd absorbed their enthusiasm and exuded it back, cheering and shouting the words to every song. There were more smiles on the stage and in the crowd than your typical hard rock concert displaying everyone’s relief that Baroness is finally back where it belongs.
The show felt as much like a celebration as a concert. Baizley addressed this briefly saying that “…this type of music doesn’t always have to be dark and destructive. There are enough of those bands out there. We aren’t one of them.”
Many of the lyrics on Yellow and Green seem eerily prophetic now. “When my bones begin to break and my head begins to shake, it’s my own blood” from the song “Eula,” and “Picking up viscera, tendons, and broken remains,” from “Take My Bones Away” could easily be understood as references to the bus accident, though this album was released a month prior to the incident. These lyrics must certainly have expanded meanings for the band and undoubtedly added to the passion of their performance Wednesday night.
Baroness is back and better than ever. Gold albums and Grammys aren’t necessarily the litmus test for greatness, but with the Yellow and Green album and the current tour, Baroness has elevated itself among the great bands in rock, past and present. Whether record sales and accolades follow or not, Baroness represents what modern rock is at its best.