When Baroness and Deafheaven announced a co-headlining North American tour, I knew that I had to attend. If seeing those two on the same night wasn’t enough, they announced that Zeal and Ardor would round out the touring package. The tour rolled into Canton Hall in Deep Ellum on Sunday night and fans were out in droves. With a line that wrapped around the building before the doors opened, it was apparent that I wasn’t the only one who had been anticipating the gig ever since it was announced.
At 8:00pm, the stage was engulfed in blue lights and the sounds of classical piano echoed through the concert hall. The sigil of Lucifer was displayed bright on the backdrop as gospel chants projected from the PA. Zeal of Ardor walked out, faces covered by black hoods, to a thunderous roar from the crowd. Led by vocalist, guitarist, and founder Manuel Gagneux, Zeal of Ardor performed a set of gospel hymns mixed with black metal riffs. The drastic contrast of genres coupled with the ritualistic stage presence helped create something more than just a concert, it was a musical experience. Manuel was joined front and center by vocalists Marc Obritz and Denis Wagner. The vocal trio produced chilling blues harmonies during “Devil is Fine,” while “Blood in the River” layered the harmonies with harsh screams. The rhythm section transitioned from rudiment marching drums to blistering blast beats with ease. The criminally short 35 minute set left the crowd wanting more. Zeal of Ardor left a lasting impression on fans including myself. I’m excited to dig in and dissect their discography after seeing them live. If you are planning on attending this tour, do not miss their set.
Next up was the powerhouse that is Baroness. My only live Baroness experience was an intimate record store show in 2015, just before the release of their album Purple. I was excited to see what the band could do this time around, on a large stage, with a full production. By the time the set started, Canton Hall was filled close to capacity. The merchandise line remained busy and fans pushed their way through toward the stage when the backdrop displayed album art from Purple. The band wasted no time getting the crowd moving. From the first note to the last, hair in the crowd was flying, bodies slammed into one another, and vocal limits were tested as fans sang along to every song. Vocalist and guitarist John Baizley fed off of the energy and executed a flawless set as expected. Guitarist and backing vocalist Gina Gleason synchronized guitar solos and harmonies with ease. Bassist Nick Jost kept the rhythm and timing in check while the heavy hits on the drums, provided by Sebastian Thomas, kept the energy level high. Baroness are no strangers to Texas and showed their appreciation to the fans throughout the night. John even took a moment to talk about when the band spent some time in Plano to record their album, Blue. The crowd erupted when the band announced that they would be playing a new song, “Borderlines.” The set covered a wide range of the band’s discography, including tracks from Purple, Blue, Yellow & Green, and Red. Baroness could’ve played all night and I think the crowd would’ve been just fine with that. Hopefully the new album will be released sooner rather than later and Baroness will embark on another North American tour.
After a short gear transition and multiple speakers were added to line the front of the stage, it was time for Deafheaven. White roses were attached to the mic stands and guitar amps and the stage was backlit with blinding white floodlights. The lights created silhouettes of the members as they took the stage and it remained that way for the rest of the night. The set kicked off with “Brought to the Water” from the band’s 2015 release New Bermuda. A massive mosh pit ensued as blast beats, tremolo picking, and screams filled the air. Vocalist George Clarke utilized every inch of the stage and didn’t stop moving the entire set. From windmills to shaking hips during slower, melodic sections, Clarke held the crowd’s attention at all times. Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy are the founders and two original members of Deafheaven and it showed with their on-stage charisma. They fed off of one another and encouraged the crowd to keep moving at all times. Homemade video that was edited to look vintage played on the backdrop and gave the audience a glimpse into the band’s life offstage. From walking around San Francisco, to watching squirrels play in the park, the video had a little bit of everything from a day in the life of Deafheaven. The set continued on with “Black Brick,” “Canary Yellow,” and “Sunbather.” The set was aggressive, fast paced, and mixed elements of black metal, post-metal, and shoegaze. This was a great way to close out one of the better tours I’ve seen in a while. Don’t miss this show if it’s coming to a town near you.
– Corey Smith
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