Baroness Leaves the Taft in a Purple Daze

Savannah, GA metal quartet Baroness occupies a unique place in the music cosmos. They are metal scene demigods and critical darlings, with four stone-cold classics under their belts, but they also have significant crossover appeal, which has led to packed festival stages and increasingly larger concert halls. They rolled into the Taft Theatre Ballroom on Tuesday night on the heels of their fourth LP Purple, released in December on their own Abraxan Hymns imprint, which they performed in its entirety. The record explored new musical textures and was a pared down but masterful followup to the magnificent sprawl of 2012’s Yellow & Green. They burst onstage with Purple highlight “Kerosene” and didn’t let up for 80 minutes. The quartet is a well-oiled machine, precise and mighty, and the tight interplay between guitarists John Baizley and Peter Adams weaves a stunning web without ever resorting to showboating. Bassist and keyboardist Nick Jost adds lush texture to intros and between-song interludes, and his thundering basslines lay a strong harmonic foundation when paired with powerhouse drummer Sebastian Thomson.

At the heart of the set were two colossal selections from Purple, “If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?)” and “Chlorine & Wine.” The pair represent the most explicit commentary on the devastating bus crash in England that nearly ended the band four years ago, and were the evening’s emotional lightning rods. “Take a dive,” Baizley roars, “Fill your lungs with summer rain.” Baizley is not chatty onstage, but he is is nonetheless one of the most engaged (and engaging) frontmen I’ve seen, hyping up the crowd with flailed arms and a wicked, gleeful grin. This is intense music that grapples with heavy topics, but it is presented with a near-unmatched level of joy.

The set was not without its dynamic shifts; the swampy instrumental “Fugue” let the crowd come up for air between the aforementioned weighty Purple selections, and the gorgeous “Green Theme” was a pleasant surprise early in the set. But for the most part, things kept coming hard and heavy. “March to the Sea” and “Shock Me” were propulsive workouts, and the breakneck “Desperation Burns” was relentless. After a joke about the artifice of encore breaks, they closed the main set with a furious run through Blue Record’s “The Gnashing.” The frenzied audience brought them back to the stage for the sludgy “Isak,” dating back to their 2007 debut, and they finished the night with Yellow & Green fan favorite “Take My Bones Away.” These are legends in the making who could easily go down as one of the alltime great metal bands, and on Tuesday night, they were at the top of their game.

Los Angeles-based openers Youth Code played a strong 40-minute set to start things out.. A static lighting setup (and static crowd) and initially flat sound mix did them no favors, but they powered through, drawing heavily on last month’s Dais Records release, Commitment to Complications. The set came on the heels of a 103-degree fever which knocked the pair out for a couple of nights, but they showed no ill effects on Tuesday. The duo paired pummeling industrial beats with Sara Taylor’s howling rasp, and some of the most effective songs (“For I Am Cursed”) found her and producer Ryan George trading off chorus vocals. 

Baroness setlist:
March to the Sea
Board Up the House
Green Theme
The Iron Bell
If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?)
Little Things
Chlorine & Wine
Try to Disappear
Desperation Burns
Shock Me
The Gnashing 


Take My Bones Away 

Youth Code setlist:
To Burn Your World
Shift of Dismay
For I Am Cursed
The Dust of Fallen Rome
Commitment to Complications
Carried Mask
Consuming Guilt