Mastodon started their set in typical fashion. Same setup, same setlist, same positions on the stage as any other show when the lights went up and the intro to ‘Tread Lightly’ came pulsing through the PA stacks. Nothing new here. Then, something started to change. The guys looked happy, interested and you could even say they were enjoying themselves.
Mastodon have never been known to me as a band who likes to chat with the audience. In fact, on their last visit to Glasgow, up the road at the Barras, they came out, put the crowd through their paces then disappeared. Tonight was a different beast altogether.
On the back of a pretty weak response to latest album Once More ‘Round the Sun I half expected them to come out, do their thing and drift off to the next stop on the tour. That wasn’t the case. In fact, they managed to make the O2 Academy feel like a living, breathing music monster. Something I’ve only witnessed on very few occasions. My hat is tipped to Mr Sound Desk Guy. Well played sir! At one point Troy Sanders leaned himself up against the PA stack to the right of the stage and started blowing kisses to who I can only imagine was the lone hottie in a crowd full of semi-hipster-bearded, middle-aged men.
Brent Hinds, a man who looks like he’s had a few tough paper rounds in the Arctic Circle, was like a man possessed – throwing himself around like an unsteady pensioner at every opportunity while Mr Cool personified – Bill Keliher – stood on the opposing side of the stage offering contrast with his ice-cold gaze taking in the energy from the crowd and dispersing it via his deep, rich sound emanating from his favoured Les Paul(s). The perfect offset to the more high-end tone that Hinds’ famous Flying V was pitching out into the cavern that is the O2 Academy. The two were balanced out by Dailor’s expert drumming and Sanders’ heavy, but clear bass.
I like the way Mastodon go about their shared vocal duties, but tonight Brent was struggling to get his vocal out and after a few attempts with his own mic decided that it would be best to share with Troy when on vocal duty. It didn’t make too of a much difference if I’m completely honest – it seems the man can’t sing live but at least he gives it a go. Still, it’s a good thing he can shred like a beast to make up for it! Brann’s vocals seemed to have improved, a new mic rig maybe? Or has he just got a little better at his live technique? Either way I was impressed, especially with ‘The Motherload’ on which he was note and pitch perfect – not easy to do when you’re killing on the drums at the same time.
The pace was frantic for the first half of the set, but that didn’t carry through a slightly drab middle section which had taken a dip by the time we got to old school instrumental ‘Ol’e Nessie’ from 2002’s Remission. It wasn’t until a few songs later we started to feel the energy return and a fairly decent moshpit heralded a return to form as the opening notes of ‘Black Tongue’ rang out. That energy didn’t subside from then until the end of curtain closer ‘Blood and Thunder’. At one point during that song I thought the entire crowd was going to join the pit – Keliher providing the shouts of “White Whale – Holy Grail”, the crowd lapping it up, and with that, it was done.
Brann Dailor’s closing words were filled with nervous energy and sombre remorse as he first reiterated how much the band loves the people who show support by buying their music and turning out to their shows like tonight. He ended his little chat by dedicating the track ‘Pendulous Skin’ – which would be played over the PA as he left the stage – to Ikey Owens who tragically died while touring with Jack White on 14th October. Ikey had contributed on Mastodon’s Blood Mountain and Once More ‘Round The Sun albums.