Starline Social Club, Oakland
March 25, 2022
Photos by Kyle Hotchkiss (IG: khmusicpress)
For their first large-scale tour of the US since the start of the pandemic, Baroness decided to do something a little bit different by letting fans vote on the setlist each night. Additionally, the band decided to scale down their production and only play small, intimate clubs with no opening act. So, fans of Baroness were treated to a one-of-a-kind “by request” set on a Friday night at the Starline Social Club in Oakland.
To drive home just how intimate a venue this was for a band as popular as Baroness, the band had to walk through the audience to get on stage for the first song, the melodic “Ogeechee Hymnal.” As the churning guitars of John Baizley and Gina Gleason played through the song’s chord progression, anticipation built up in the crowd just as the band transitioned into the rocking “Take My Bones Away.” Anchored by a winding baseline from Nick Jost and some forceful drumming from Sebastian Thomson, the crowd exploded into a mosh pit just as the song reached its anthemic chorus, with Baizley belting its title.
Next up was the heavy thrash of “The Sweetest Curse,” which featured some of the most technical guitar riffing of the evening, with Gleason and Baizley locking into a chugging groove. Part of what makes Baroness such a great live band is that they never lose their sense of melody, even in their heaviest moments, and there are plenty of catchy and melodic moments, even in a song like “The Sweetest Curse” or the song that followed, the crushing “Isak.”
One of the night’s most memorable moments was next, during a particularly inspired rendition of “Tourniquet” from their most recent record, Gold & Grey. The piece began with a dreamy clean guitar figure as Baizley and Gleason sang the song’s opening lines. The combination of both singers made the vocal melody really stand out, just as the band kicked in the distortion and picked up the tempo, turning the song from a dreamy ballad to pulsing metal. Eventually, the song reached its climax as Baizley and Gleason performed an interlocking harmonized guitar melody.
A few songs later, Baroness launched into the furious metal of “Shock Me,” driven by a rolling drum beat from Thomson and some awe-inspiring lead vocals from Baizley. Again, most metal bands do not have the kind of tunefulness and melodic taste the way Baroness does, and they’re able to shift from brutal to beautiful in the span of just a few bars of music.
Later on in the set, Baizley took to the mic to thank all of the fans for voting, noting that the fans in Oakland picked many obscure songs that the band had to really focus on getting down before the show date. After a brief set change to acoustic guitars, Baizley and Gleason played a short acoustic set, performing two songs from Gold & Grey: “Cold-Blooded Angels” and “I’d Do Anything.” Both songs worked incredibly well in an acoustic setting, with just two guitars and two voices harmonizing. It was nice to break up such a long set and keep the audience engaged.
After strapping the electric guitars back on and playing a few more songs, Baroness brought out Philip Manley, the guitarist of legendary post-rock band Trans Am (of which Thomson is also a member), to play the Trans Am song “Slow Response.” The song’s heavy guitar riffing and pounding rhythm fit in very well with the Baroness sound.
Baroness closed out their mammoth 23-song set with the surging “Swollen and Halo,” a winding piece of metal from their second album, Blue Record. With plenty of tempo/feel changes, the song was a fitting choice to end the evening.
There are very few bands in the metal world that can pull off the level of quality that Baroness does on a nightly basis. For the band to have returned from the COVID hiatus in such a strong fashion is proof that they’re only getting better on each tour.
Ogeechee Hymnal | Take My Bones Away | The Sweetest Curse | Isak | Tourniquet | March to the Sea | Green Theme | Chlorine & Wine | Shock Me | If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?) / Fugue | Cold-Blooded Angels (Acoustic) | I’d Do Anything (Acoustic) | Can Oscura | Little Things | War, Wisdom and Rhyme | Cocainium | Borderlines | Slow Response (Trans Am cover) | Wanderlust | The Birthing | Eula | The Gnashing || Encore || Swollen and Halo