There was a lot of confusion as people walked into The Bar Fly on Friday night. I wish I could say I wasn’t confused or in disbelief like everyone else but I was. It was my first time in this smaller room that sits on the ground floor of The Skyway Theatre and I don’t think I realized just how small it was. Okay, we aren’t talking super tiny or anything but, for a band like Baroness, this was ridiculously small and it was a bit shocking if I’m being quite frank. Yes, yes, I know that the tour was advertised as being in super intimate clubs but this was beyond intimate. Disbelief throughout the sold-out crowd (which probably wasn’t more than 100 people) quickly shifted to anticipation which instantly changed to excitement as the one and only Baroness took the stage.
Baroness has been around since the early 2000s. They instantly caught a lot of people just due to their sheer musicianship and their eye-catching album artwork. I got pulled into this band because of that artwork. Its distinct style is intricate and beautiful. The linework is insane and it truly does just catch your eye. It would be years after I picked up Baroness’ 2007 album ‘Red Album’ that I learned the artwork was actually done by vocalist John Baizley but, in retrospect, that makes sense. There’s such an attention to detail in the artwork just like there is in the music of Baroness. But you’re not here to read about how I drool over John’s artwork, you’re here to hear about the concert so I digress.
There’s a little background on this tour that I feel like I should lay out before going any further. I already mentioned this but, in case you breeze over my personal little intros, this tour is full of shows at super intimate venues. Beyond that, the setlist of every show is curated by the audience. Audience members voted on songs that they wanted to hear and that’s what the band would play leaving every night different than the last. A true audience-fueled show, it was clear that everybody was anxious to see Baroness in this kind of setting. They are always a great band but always on bigger stages to being this up close and personal was sure to be a life-changing night for the super fans.
The band wasted no time jumping into what would become a lengthy (but not long enough) set. Without saying anything, the band started playing and didn’t take their first real break until after the first hour when John finally addressed the crowd and thanked them for coming. Normally, this lack of banter with the audience, especially at such an intimate show, would annoy me but Baroness’ music truly does the talking for them. Each song seems to start with beautiful and calm instrumentation before the band jumps into a heavy-hitting metal anthem complete with stunning guitar work, stunning drums, and a constant and steady bassline. It’s almost like the band gives everyone a chance to breathe with every song before slamming them with an undeniable sense of passion and power and, although the audience wasn’t moving all that much, those brief breaks were absolutely appreciated because seeing this band so up close and personal was nothing short of exhausting (in a truly amazing way).
Baroness is a very technical band. Their guitar work is a cut above the rest and they truly take a sense of care with every note in every song. You can hear and see that every time you see them perform but it seemed to change everything to see all of that so up close and personal. I loved watching the faces of all four members as they performed. You could see the passion and determination and I feel like it was a good reminder that all of the members are truly doing what they love and are loving what they do. I feel like I wasn’t the only one just completely captivated by watching the members’ every move. As mentioned, the audience wasn’t really moving around all that much other than the occasional fist in the air but that didn’t mean that people weren’t into it. There were moments where you could literally hear a pin drop in that room between songs and, at one point, some people were even shushed for talking just a wee bit too loud between tracks. It was a polite shush but also just showed how attentive the majority of the audience was being to even the slightest movement and sound from the stage.
Obviously, seeing a band in such an intimate setting is a very personable thing and, although John didn’t speak all that often when he did, it felt like talking to an old friend that you just hadn’t seen in some time. He admitted that there were a lot of other shows going on on Friday night and multiple to choose from within just a block at that and he was honestly just so thankful that we had chosen this show. Sure, everyone says that but there was something genuine about it when John said it. He also talked about how Minneapolis is like a second home to him and it didn’t feel like he was just saying that. John (and the rest of the band for that matter) comes off as a very serious and intense person but something shifted every time he would talk about his time in Minneapolis or would thank the band.
There’s no sense in me getting into what songs the band played because that’s not a constant throughout this tour and honestly I was in such a haze of happiness and bliss that I didn’t keep track but I can tell you their set was perfect. With the first half being those tracks that the audience had voted on and the second half being those that the band chose, nobody left the show on Friday night without hearing at least a handful of their favorite Baroness songs. Even though the set was already lengthy, Baroness probably could have played a few more hours and nobody in the audience would have moved an inch. Although we all left the night satisfied, I don’t think anyone in the audience wanted the evening to end.
I hope more bands hop on this intimate show train. Not only did it feel like a super special evening for all of us, but it was also very covid- conscious and it felt like a super safe environment for everyone. Everyone had their space, everyone could wander as they wished all the while being super close to the band and feeling the emotion and power radiating off the stage in an unbelievable way.