Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mastodon Rocks the Worcester Palladium

Mastodon Live!Mastodon is truly a unique band, and I was reminded of this simply by looking at the crowd before their show began last night. There was a wide variety of heavy metal and alternative represented via the t-shirts the audience was wearing - Tool, nin, Slayer, The Misfits, and even Rush. Earlier I had wondered exactly who this band appeals to, and it became clear that it's to those who tend to appreciate a technically proficient bent to their music.

Mastodon began promptly at 10 pm, walking on stage as sounds of a crashing surf played through the stage monitors. As all three axe-men momentarily faced away from the audience, raising their instruments skyward in tribute to the metal gods, the crowd cheered, knowing full well they were about to experience metal gods of their own. Mastodon then plowed through all thirteen plus minutes of Leviathan's "Hearts Alive", a staggeringly ballsy feat that didn't phase the crowd one bit. The band members were metal machines, spot on with all aspects of the music, performing stage mannerisms that whooped the crowd into a frenzy (no small feat considering how tiny the stage was they had to work with).

They went on to play 80% of their latest record, Leviathan (all except "Naked Burn" and "Joseph Merrick"), four songs off of Remission (including "Crusher Destroyer" and "March of the Fire Ants"), one from Lifesblood ("Hail to Fire", with "fried eggs" speech intact), plus a Melvins cover. Each song was played with razor sharp accuracy from their manly Gibson Flying Vs and Les Pauls (with an Explorer waiting in the wings - all choice selections, and proof these guys are more metal than metal).

Mastodon's performance was an impressive bit of work considering the complexity of their music. They played meticulously, stopping ever so briefly between songs to change the tuning of their instruments, during which old school horror movie dialog blared through the monitors. Mastodon seemed truly appreciative of the crowd, telling them that other recent audiences were not so receptive (clearly those folks' loss).

The only negative for me was that their set was too short - barely 70 minutes, including one encore. But hell, I was able to procure a guitar pick off the stage (Bill Kelliher apparently uses green Dunlop Tortex .88 mm; most excellent choice!), so all's good.

This was the best show I've seen in many a year. Mastodon had no delusions of grandeur, since they were hanging about before their set (I spied the bassist, Troy Sanders, making a phone call outside the club), and personally spot checking their instrument setup a la Eric Johnson. Once engaged, the crowd was surprisingly devoid of lunatics (fewer moshers than I expected), so I was able to wedge myself right up on the right side of the stage and get a great view of the band (check out the photos taken at the show). The sound mix was especially good, another rarity these days.

Catch Mastodon on this headlining tour or at Ozzfest in a town near you.


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