Baroness, Deafheaven and Zeal & Ardor at Emo’s, Austin, TX, 3/9/2019

This was a really cool triple bill.  Most of the time it seems like promoters like to group bands on a touring package that are all in the same vein of metal.  This show was different in that the three bands brought a diversity of metal styles to the same show.  I think these kinds of shows keep the proceedings from getting stale or repetitive.

Baroness and Deafheaven have joined together for a co-headlining trek across the States.  At this particular show, we were treated to having Baroness as the headliner.  It has been a few years since we’ve seen Baroness on a proper tour and this one presented a couple of changes.  First off, we got to see new lead guitarist, Gina Gleason, in action.  She fits in perfectly with the band.  Not only did she absolutely nail all of former guitarist Peter Adams’ leads and backing vocals, but she also managed to capably cover all of Pete’s enthusiastic headbanging for the band.  Additionally, we got to hear one preview song off of the band’s upcoming album, Gold and Silver.  The song seemed to be in a similar vein to the band’s last album, Purple.  Overall, the set was a fairly good cross-section of the band’s full catalog.

Deafheaven hit the stage in the middle slot of the show and ripped through a fairly tight set.  Always in the mood to tweak the traditions of black metal, they came out with a very spacey/rainbow themed backdrop and white carnations adorning their amps.  Much like Baroness, Deafheaven is kind of in between albums and they had just recently dropped one new song which they played during their set.  Deafheaven is just a weird band and I get why they catch so much crap from the purists.  Lead singer George Clark seems to be gathering more and more confidence in his stage performance as the band ages and if he continues with his whip-hair style of headbanging he’s liable to end up with a neck as thick as Corpsegrinders.  Lead guitarist Kerry McCoy’s emo-style dance moves just don’t quite gel with some of the downright brutal riffs coming out of his guitar.  I don’t know.  People slag these guys, but I dig it.  It’s different and the music is solid.

Zeal & Ardor were the wild card of the evening.  Billed as a combination of traditional slave-era black spiritual music with black metal, this was a band that I was really intrigued to see live.  Given the disparity between the two musical styles, you’d think this would be a mess, but it honestly works really well.  Mastermind Maneul Gagneaux stated that the project answers the question as to what it would have sounded like if American slaves turned to Satan instead of Jesus.   After a little technical difficulty to start their set, the band came out to a fairly blackened stage set.  Gagneaux had two back-up singers with him to provide the full context of the songs.  These guys have created a very unique sound and I urge you to go see them perform.

Deafheaven-Black Brick

Baroness-Shock Me

Judas Priest, Saxon and Black Star Riders at Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, TX 5/1/2018

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These are the special ones.  The shows that hearken back to the bands that first made an impression on a developing little headbanger.  The shows that feature artists in the twilight of long distinguished careers.  You never know if this is the last time you’ll get to see these guys perform live again.  These are the shows to really cherish.  Especially when a group of senior citizens flat-out obliterate an arena with a blitzkrieg of metal.

40 plus years into their career and they still deliver like a band half their age.  You see some singers lose their high range as they age.  Well, Rob Halford is apparently a robot.  He doesn’t quite move around the stage as he once did, but he hit all of the high notes without issue.  Guitarist Richie Faulkner ably filled the shoes of retired K.K. Downing both in sound and in stage presence.  Uber-metal producer Andy Sneap did an admirable job in filling in for the Parkinson’s stricken Glenn Tipton.  San Antonio was lucky enough to be one of the dates in which Tipton came out for an encore of Metal Gods, Breaking the Law and Livin’ After Midnight.  He looks frail, but it was really nice to see him able to perform on stage one last time.

The set list Priest brought to the table this evening was just outstanding.  They rolled out four songs from the new album, Firepower.  The oldest song from the remainder of the set list was from 1990.  So, it was really a show featuring the vintage Priest material.  All of the huge hits were represented along with some fairly obscure gems like Sinner, Saints in Hell and Tyrant.

Long time NWOBHM heroes, Saxon, opened up the show and also served notice that age will not slow down these metal giants.  Given an hour set, Biff and the boys alternated between a set of new songs from Thunderbolt and their many classic anthems.  Crusader, Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel, The Power and The Glory and Motorcycle Man were are represented and met with a huge San Antonio reaction.

Judas Priest-Sinner

Judas Priest-Tyrant

Judas Priest-Saints in Hell

Saxon-Motorcycle Man