High on Fire

Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 25

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Jack KelleherPublished Nov 26, 2019

When Matt Pike announced High on Fire's last tour was cancelled due to concerns for his health, the frontman closed with a promise that this wasn't the end and the band would be back. After nearly shaking Toronto's Danforth Music Hall to the ground last night, it's clear that they mean business.
Standing amongst a megalithic formation of amplifiers, Pike and bassist Jeff Matz unleashed a sonic fury strong enough to rattle the bones of even the most seasoned hesher. The volume alone will make this show hard to forget, especially while your ears are still ringing. It definitely added to the band's titanic aesthetic and made the set feel more momentous.
This show also stood out due to the addition of touring drummer Chris Maggio, of Wear Your Wounds, who Pike introduced as "the new maniac." Maggio proved he could run with this wolves on this tour, matching Pike and Matz's energy on stage.
High on Fire wasted no time getting to songs from their latest album, 2018's Electric Messiah, ripping through "Spewn From the Earth" and "Steps of the Ziggurat." From there, they moved on to career staples such as "Rumors of War" and "Speedwolf," all played with wild intensity. The band took just one opportunity to get laid back, and that was for a hazy jam leading into "Baghdad," with Matz laying down a serious groove.
Stage-wise, it scratched off the High on Fire checklist, which is massive amps and Pike's shirtless, tatted hide. Pike and Matz made ample use of the space, melting faces in the crowd from side to side during solos. The lights were bare bones, shining either white or red most of the time. They captured the band's punk side, but not so much their epic side.
By his own admission Pike isn't much of a talker, but he did take some opportunities to address the crowd. He thanked everyone who came out and expressed how good it was to be performing with High on Fire again. He also encouraged everyone to "smoke 'em if you got 'em," adding "I want to burn this place down with weed."
They closed the set with "Electric Messiah," flinging picks into the crowd as feedback rang off the walls. Pike stood in the middle of the stage holding up his hands in thanks to the crowd. You could see genuine gratitude and humility in his eyes as he looked out onto a sea raised horns. It was as big a moment for him and High on Fire as it was for everyone else.

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