Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baroness at Irving Plaza

Peter Adams (center) and John Baizley (right)
Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Baizley remains the only remaining original member of Baroness, a heavy metal band formed in 2003 in Savannah, Georgia. The band’s third album, 2012’s Yellow & Green, was the group’s biggest commercial and critical success and the band seemed headed for international fame when everything changed on August 15, 2012. The band’s tour bus fell an estimated 30 feet from a viaduct near Bath, England. Nine passengers were injured, but the band and crew miraculously survived the incident. Baizley broke his left leg and his left arm was made operable with the insertion of two titanium plates, 20 screws, a foot and a half of wire, and almost 50 staples. The band’s new line-up is finally back on tour, promoting its new Live at Maida Vale EP. Baroness presently is Baizley, Peter Adams on lead guitar, and new members Nick Joston on bass and Sebastian Thomson on drums.

Baroness’s concert at Irving Plaza tonight, one night short of the first anniversary of the accident, was as much a celebration of life as it was a showcase of the band’s musical history. The band has not written new material since the accident, so the concert was made up of older material. Baroness’ distinctiveness was in that the band avoided all metal clichés. Consequently, it is easier to describe what the concert was not rather than what it was. First of all, Baizley sang; not that he had a particularly special vocal delivery, but there are so many growling metal singers that hearing a rather ordinary voice was refreshing. The songs were not fashioned as radio-ready anthems, but followed the less commercial and more innovative path of being simply a framework within which the musicians slammed an impressive variety of chunky chops. Secondly, the band did not propel its sound with twin guitar leads and double bass drums. Baroness’ music was consistently very heavy, yet the song structures appeared to be slightly influenced by the kind of complex charts often found in classical and jazz compositions. This was only possible because the band members were competent players, students of their crafts. Most evident tonight, however, was the enthusiasm with which Baizley led the band; after nearly a year of recuperation, he appeared to be all about playing live music again with his team.