Photo: Baroness’ Facebook
Last time Baroness were set to play Southampton’s Engine Rooms, they were halted by the fact that their bus fell 30 feet off a bridge. It put the band through physical and mental tribulation that no musician anticipates. Since then, every time we’ve heard about Baroness, the shadow of that terrible crash has loomed over them, which is fair due to the severity of the injuries, but tonight they step out of that shadow into the purple lights of the stage.
The Georgia quartet come out unleashing the rumbling riff of ‘Morningstar’, which takes the biggest hit sound-wise tonight, but it’s only a few creases that are cleanly ironed out when they go into ‘Shock Me’ straight after. John Baizley’s live vocals are outstanding as he leads his voice through the maze of notes he’s set himself on record – his harmony between singing and sounding like he’s shouting off a mountain fills the room, proving that he’s just as – if not more – powerful live than he is on record. Baizley doesn’t fall into the guitar-wielding frontman’s trap of just playing and singing; the whole band thrash about, have fun and soak it in, and you can tell they’re thankful to be on that stage, especially Baizley and co-guitarist Peter Adams.
When Baroness take it back a record from the simmering sludge of Purple to the more melody-clad, Yellow & Green, the sound transitions perfectly with them. Nick Jost’s bass sits beautifully in the mix with a tone that sounds a lot more upbeat than on record, and on tracks like ‘Board Up The House’, his playing sounds borderline reggae. When Baroness play tracks from their first two albums they feel designed to hit you hard, whilst Yellow & Green’s material are sing-a-longs filled with atmospheric intricacies. The tracks of Purple strike a beautiful balance between these two styles, and the band clearly agree as they play every track off the new record adding set highlights in ‘Try To Disappear’ and ‘Chlorine And Wine’.
The band’s previous journey to Southampton will stay with the those involved for the rest of their lives, but tonight feels like a good ending to that volume of Baroness’ career. They finally made it to the stage they were heading to, and for the fans it’s come full circle. When the stage lights go off, the shadow of the bus crash is nowhere to be seen.