Baroness and Deafheaven Bring Zeal & Ardor To Skyway Theatre


The three concerts I covered this week were all on the heavier side of the spectrum. This was one was an evening that proved to be the most epic and most intense of the bunch. The opening band that goes by the moniker of Zeal & Ardor was an aptly titled one that was a great precursor to the headlining acts and describes the evening perfectly well.  There was an abundance of passion, energy, enthusiasm and intensity from all three of the bands that are on this North American tour.

The Switzerland based Zeal & Ardor opened up the night at the Skyway Theatre to get the crowd warmed up for a night of music. Baroness bassist, Nick Jost, also got warmed up as well as he took the stage with the opener to thump out some riffs on his bass guitar. It was an interesting juxtaposition of Spiritual vocal melodies but then adding the antithesis of that by including elements of black metal such as in ideology, blast beats, screams and tremolo picking on the guitars. The utilization of three signers created a lush harmony in the vocal department.

All members were cloaked in matching hooded robes. As the 35 minute set quickly ticked by, they eventually  pulled the hoods back reveal themselves before continuing on with their set. There was overlapping styles of Gospel and Blues interlaced with more aggressive and heavier aspects. They played out some cool disharmonious riffs throughout the evening. I really enjoyed the recurring guitar theme in all of it’s various configurations heard in the song Don’t You Dare.  In a deconstructed form near the beginning, the heavy tremolo version towards the middle but especially in the closing where it is more prominent and dissonant.

Zeal & Ardor Setlist
Sacrilegium I
In Ashes
Come On Down
Blood In the River
Gravedigger’s Chant
Don’t You Dare
Devil Is Fine

By now the Skyway Theatre was a pretty packed house. The stage change over concluded and all was just about set for Deafheaven to make way. The practice of smudging took place as a burning bundle of sage was wafted across the stage. While I enjoyed aspects of their music I was eager to see more in person for a better understanding as I never really delved into their catalog. The intensity came quick as the slow and heavy guitar chords droned out over heavily paced drum lines as Brought To The Water was the first song that started out their set. The whipping of frontman George Clarke’s hair was a dizzying display that was routinely repeated throughout the 75 minute set. The fast tremolo of guitars and their harsh black metal tones shift for a brighter guitar lead. Eventually the tremolo picking returns but now in the style more apropos for post rock. This back and forth of blended styles was an intriguing listening experience in a live setting.

Black Brick was a song that I was expecting and eager to hear live. In the lead up to covering this show I checked in to see what sort of material they were making these days and I was fascinated by the relentless barrage of black metal this song offered. As their carefully curated set played out I became more and more enthralled by their artistry. The amount of energy and drive that George Clarke embodied was astounding and most certainly intense.

Dynamic music is something I greatly appreciate but typically I’m not one for jovial music. While the upbeat portion’s of their music is seldom, this added to the contrast which aides in emphasizing the dynamics and this intense music hits you that much harder.  The visuals I witnessed on stage made it work for me when hearing the happier parts, something I didn’t have when I first gave them a listen previously and brushed it aside. With the abundance of music that is out there, one can’t always devote as much time to understanding the music fully and actually listen properly. Often times its a quick read up or a suggestion that brings forth the sampling of an unfamiliar band’s work. The desire for more quality music to ingest is met with a culling process to quickly weed out what appears to not fit the bill so the next amazing artist’s piece can be adsorbed. Fortunately for me, this evening was full fledged listening session that swayed me into an appreciation for what they have created.

Deafheaven Setlist:
Brought To The Water
Black Brick
Canary Yellow
Worthless Animal
Dream House

Last time I saw Baroness was at the smaller stage located at the Cabooze.  As I recall,  I found myself thinking that my preferred method to get my Baroness fix was better suited from hearing their albums on my headphones or a set of speakers at home or in the car. As I’m sorting through the photos I shot and selecting the ones worth editing, I always listen to that bands music to conjure up the memories and start contemplating the words to write. While working on Baroness photos I just wanted to go back to that live experience, the sitting at home with headphones on was not fully satiating my hunger.

Chlorine & Wine was the first experience with the work of Baroness that I had. Hearing that song live this time around was so much grander. In that moment it struck me that a stage of this size is more befitting of their music.  That tiny stage before just couldn’t prop them up to the level they belong at. As the final notes of Chlorine & Wine rung out the crowd began chanting out “Baroness! Baroness! Baroness!” This was amusing for me, as it seemed like their set had ended. The band had just walked off and the crowd was empathically encouraging the band to play them one more song. It hadn’t even been 30 minutes yet and the crowd was eagerly awaiting this fury of energy and emotion to continue. This same audience response occurred two more times. Once more after the new song Borderlines and after the emotive Eula. I was thrilled to hear Eula in this well suited location as it is a favorite of mine. They intro to this live version seemed much slower and more ominous than the original recording. By the time the drums kicked in I was awash with a wave of chills.

Singer and guitarist, John Baizley, was grinning much of the night. He really enjoys playing with his band-mates and it clearly showed across his face and stage presence. Shredding riffs back to back with fellow guitarist Gina Gleason and the countless time they were shoulder to shoulder or facing each other feeding of the energy of one another. There was a time he went walking behind bassist Nick Jost cracking a smile at his playing. Then there was the moment he was facing drummer Sebastian Thomson thrash out on the drums with such great fervency that caused another moment suitable for a grin.  They all have a great rapport with one another that is evident in the way they interact on stage.

Gina Gleason is a new addition since my last time seeing Baroness play live. She is an amazing guitarist full of energy that was constantly released on that stage. Whether that be by jumping off the drum kit stage or stomping about with hair flying about while jamming out some riffs. Her vocals offer a nice counterpoint to Baizley’s and I am eager to see how her performance is captured on the new upcoming album

Baroness Setlist:
A Horse Called Golgotha
March To The Sea
Green Theme
Chlorine & Wine
If I Have To Wake Up (Would You Stop The Rain?)
Shock Me
Ogeechee Hymnal
The Sweetest Curse
Take My Bones Away

This billing encapsulated a wide range of energy that took many forms, whether that was delivered by Zeal & Ardor, Deafheaven or Baroness. The stage presence was massive and everyone in attendance were fortunate enough to have the chance to experience such a beast of a show. If this one is coming through your area be sure to take the opportunity to experience it firsthand for yourselves.

Remaining Tour Dates:
March 31 – Chicago, IL – The Riviera Theatre
April 2 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
April 3 – Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
April 5 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom 
April 6 – Worcester, MA – The Palladium
April 7 – Albany, NY – Upstate Concert Hall 
April 9 – Cleveland, OH – The Agora
April 10 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
April 12 – New York, NY – Terminal 5