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First Avenue was gifted a boon of bountiful metal tunes this past week - Baroness brought their Sweet Oblivion tour supporting their latest release, Stone,  to Minneapolis on Tuesday, gracing the stage with the current segment’s tour buddies Spotlights and Chat Pile. The seasoned metal outfit - headed by the impossible-to-miss, towering John Baizley - brought a whole cavalcade of tunes, new and old, to the venue, with sincerely screamed vocals and jumping guitars aplenty.

Support band number one was Spotlights, a metal trio from Brooklyn that sounds like a dozen bands you’ve heard of while at the same time sound completely unique. When hearing them, one is bound to be reminded of a very wide ranging variety of bands, especially on their latest album Alchemy For The Dead. Deftones, 16volt, Katatonia, Torche - they seem to draw from these and more to create a sound wholly their own. Translating live, the band is an atom bomb going off - their short set was the first few songs off of Alchemy, but amplified tremendously, the opening notes of Beyond the Broken Sky sounding significantly larger, the vocals sounding even more mysterious and brooding, and the musical, groovy drumming of Chris Enriquez even more captivating.

Indie-ish darlings Chat Pile were up next. Chat Pile have, for those heavy music listeners living under a rock, taken the metal world by storm these past few years, blowing up seemingly out of nowhere with their release God’s Country in 2022, skyrocketing them directly into everyone’s attention. Their sincere mix of noise-come-sludge and drunken, rambling, heartfelt vocals seemed to connect a common vein of outrage and frustration at the perfect time. Live - this doesn’t work quite as well, as while the heavy songs like "Why" and "Tropical Beaches, Inc". are tailor-made to crush a live audience, the vocalist’s incoherent mumble-talk-scream and general disinterested demeanor has a place in performance art, but as a frontman he does as much harm as he does good, stripping away some of the energy of the solid musicianship and creating a conflict between band and vocalist.

Baroness came to the stage last, arms raised to the skies as the opening notes of "Embers" played over the house speakers, and then Stone’s first real track "Last Word" kicked in and we were off! Baizley’s vein-popping, full-energy style of delivering vocals is incomparably charming, a distinguishing feature of their performances. He has spoken often in the past about how much Baroness’ music is trying to strike at a connective tissue through music, and watching him give everything he’s got in everything song - it’s impossible not to be taken in. You combine this with impeccable supporting fare in Gina Gleason, who is fighting a battle to the death with standing still, and Nick Jost’s effortless groovy bass contributions, and how could you not fall in love? Baroness followed with a track off of 2007’s Blue - "A Horse Called Golgotha" - and then marched right into "A March to the Sea" from 2012’s Yellow/Green. They then sailed into tracks from all over, covering pretty much their entire discography, before returning to Blue and Yellow/Green for their encore with a rendition of "The Sweetest Curse" and "Takes My Bones Away". A stellar performance that took the crowds to sweet oblivion and back.


Joseph Dunst

Photojournalist - Minneapolis  

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