Baroness / Heiress Starlite Room, Edmonton AB, May 27
Published May 28, 2016You know a band has members with ties from the polite '90s hardcore scene when their hirsute lead singer takes a moment off from bellowing like a possessed demon to remind patrons to "please tip your bartender."
So it went with Heiress, whose vocalist John Pettibone cut his teeth with legendary hardcore band Undertow; he then went on to front the excellent Himsa and now utilizes his considerable vocal heft in Heiress. The band opened up this night with a slow burn reminiscent of their recorded output: it lacked the immediate punch of Pettibone's other bands, but by the halfway point of the set, it was clear they knew what they were doing with their droning sludge.
The band hit hardest when they clicked together and picked up the tempo a bit, but they even meander with more power than most, and their sound comes across better live than recorded. Heiress played a great, moving set, and one that got everyone ready for the headliners.
Baroness were playing Edmonton for the first time in eight years, and considering the unfortunate events that have taken place in their lives since, it makes sense that this return was going to be a joyous one. And it was: vocalist/guitarist John Baizley was absolutely electric, the man's love for life — and music — coming through loud and clear, both through his playing and his facial expressions, which conveyed pure joy.
The band played a lengthy set that drew heavily on their more recent material, and it proved that they have the art of creating a set down pat (there was hardly a second of quiet on the stage for the whole set). It also proved how far they've grown from their sludgy beginnings into a rock band that can keep a crowd entertained, no problem.
Really, based on the strength of Baroness's set last night (May 27), and hearing songs like the incredible "Shock Me," "March to the Sea" and closer "Take My Bones Away" (three of the band's best), it's not hard to imagine them playing arenas with these songs: they're huge, they're celebratory, they're alive; the band completely owns them, and the audience completely revels in them. But it's not just the rockers that work live, as the band played slower, more thoughtful tracks like "Chlorine & Wine" and made every second of that quiet, open space theirs.
Well, theirs, and the audience's: this night proved that Baroness's music belongs as much to the crowd as the band, as the audience sung along and Baizley loved every second of it, the band's music fully transformed from difficult sludge to anthemic rock without losing a bit of integrity along the way.