Baroness’s first ever Roskilde gig came at a very interesting time for the Savannah, Georgia rockers. Less than two weeks away from the release of an album that seems poised to either break them into the mainstream or alienate some of their early fanbase - or perhaps a little bit of both - expectations were high to see just which Baroness would appear on Roskilde’s Odeon stage.
Following a prolonged intro that saw drummer Allan Bickle enter the stage before his bandmates, Baroness set things off on a high note by shredding their way through what is perhaps their best-known song, ‘A Horse Called Golgotha’ off of 2009’s critically-acclaimed Blue Record.
Seamlessly segueing into ‘March to the Sea’, one of three released songs from the band’s upcoming Yellow & Green double album, it was clear that Baroness was going to deliver a show that mixed all of the elements of their sound, both new and old.
The band then delivered another new track with an unmistakably softer and catchier feel that grew progressively harder throughout. When followed by ‘Steel that Sleeps the Eye’, the newer songs felt perfectly in place with Baroness’s earlier work, setting expectations even higher for the July 17 release of Yellow & Green.
Baroness has their own unique brand of sludge/progressive metal that effortlessly alternates between moments of blistering aggression, softer beauty and trippy stoner interludes. With the exception of lead guitarist Peter Adams - who looked every bit the metal god while putting on a virtual clinic with the axe while clad in a black sleeveless t-shirt of fellow Savannah metal outfit Black Tusk - the band has neither the look or attitude of a traditional metal band. The members of Baroness could easily stroll through Roskilde without being picked out of the crowd as rock stars. And indeed, following their show, they could be seen off to the side of the stage, along with members of Red Fang, enjoying Hank 3’s incredible performance.
While on stage, the ‘normal guys’ persona of Baroness shone through as the band members oozed genuine enthusiasm and passion as they showed off their trademark musicianship. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist John Baizley and bassist Matt Maggioni repeatedly pumped their fists and broke into broad smiles as they scanned over the large Odeon crowd intently watching their performance.
Baizley, who told me in a brief pre-show chat that the band was excited about getting the new material out to the fans, looked genuinely touched at the crowd’s positive reaction to new material, particularly ‘Take My Bones Away’, which had many in the audience singing along on the chorus.
Things hit a frenzied pitch on the show’s two closing tracks - ‘The Sweetest Curse’ and ‘Isak’ - both of which resulted in a small mosh pit breaking out near the front of the stage and some serious neck-breaking headbanging from both band and audience.
On the strength of their short but very effective set, Baroness laid to rest any notion that they were moving away from their musical roots. If anything, their Roskilde performance showed the promise of their new direction, making it not hard to imagine that if they return to the festival a few years down the road, they will need a bigger venue than Odeon.
In the meantime, anyone wanting to catch the band in a smaller, more intimate setting will get another chance on August 7, when Baroness plays Amager’s Beta venue.
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