On Thursday evening I boarded the 525 to Glasgow for the final time this year, suitably chaperoned by Boy Child and FB Son.
And who were we going to see?
Well, we were heading for the “iconic” Barrowlands to see Mastodon. (Sorry, it really is a bit of a dump)
I have to admit the walk from the Central Station through the city centre was very pretty. Very festive! Lots of twinkling lights and the occasional giant reindeer but the twinkling lights we sought were the huge neon sign at Barrowlands. You really can’t miss it!
After a chilly half hour of queuing, we were all relieved to see the doors open and, after a very thorough security search, were finally allowed up the stairs to secure our rail spot for the evening.
First band to appear onstage were Russian Circles, an instrumental trio based in Chicago. They had obviously brought a small core group of fans along. To our left, there were about a dozen guys totally absorbed in the entire half hour of metal shoe-gazing musique. They were like a row of dipping birds, which prompted an uncontrollable fit of the giggles from yours truly . ( Watch this and you’ll get the idea https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwjzbN8Vz0k )
As for Russian Circles…..well, I’m going adopt the Thumper Principle here “If you can’t say nuthin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
Red Fang were up next. Again, another new band to me but sadly again they missed the mark for me. Don’t get me wrong, these four guys from Portland Oregon played a solid support set and were an immense improvement on Russian Circles but it just didn’t cut it for me. Boy Child described them as “Dad Rock”. Wiki describes them as “stoner metal”. In reality, they are most likely a mix of both. Check them out if you’re curious. In their favour, they got the capacity crowd wakened up and eventually revved up ready for the arrival of Mastodon.
Mastodon took to the stage shortly after 9:15 amid a sea of pulsating green lights. Almost instantly a huge chant of “Mastodon! Mastodon!” went up as the band eased into their seventeen song set with The Last Baron, from their 2009 opus Crack The Skye. Brent Hinds obliged with the opening vocal chores. The tempo was swiftly upped by Sultan’s Curse, from their current album Emperor Of Sand, and Divinations, also from Crack The Skye.
I’m going to be honest here, I’m not overly familiar with Mastodon’s earlier albums but I do like Emperor Of Sand. In total, six songs from it found their way onto the set list.
Ancient Kingdoms, from Emperor Of Sand, was up next and if nothing else showcased Mastodon’s stage set up and lighting. Six tall narrow LED pillars stood like ancient columns across the width of the stage. Together with the multitude of spotlights, this made for an impressive backdrop. The spotlights also highlighted the constant stream of crowd surfers being passed out from the huge mosh pit. (Yes, Boy Child and FB Son had by now disappeared in that direction)
Mastodon are somewhat unique in that all members of the band fulfil their fair share of vocal chores. It’s also the first time I’ve known the drummer to be the main vocalist. Nice job, Brann Dailor. All four members have a distinctly different style and stage presence. There’s Brent Hinds who wouldn’t look out of place in The Hobbit or Game of Thrones and the military sergeant look of Bill Kelliher. For me, I think my vote goes to bassist Troy Sanders. Loved his performance all night.
Highlight song of the set for me personally was Show Yourself. Perhaps a little more commercial than some of the music on offer but it sat well and held its own in one of the heaviest sets I’ve heard.
Another highlight was Roots Remain. Hard and heavy and loud!
Here, have a listen for yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt1E8NBCxVk&t=138s
Mastodon rounded off the evening as hard and heavy as it gets with Mother Puncher (quite apt as it was shortly before that that drunk in the crowd caused a bit of aggro and I unfortunately found myself on the receiving end of a punch), Stormbreather and finally Blood And Thunder.
Brann Dailor emerged from behind his drums to thank the fans for coming out. He stood chatting to the crowd long after his band mates had departed, then tossed his used sticks into the crowd and bade us good night.
Less chat and perhaps we could’ve had a short encore…..just saying….
A great night of LOUD music to end the year on.
I do need to give a shout out here to the security guys at Barrowlands. I’ve never seen so many security guys lining the front of the stage but those guys did a great job all night. Crowd surfers were being passed out from the audience all night thick and fast and they handled the brilliantly. When the guy caused the minor spot of aggro beside me, one of the security guys came over afterwards to check I was ok, a gesture that I really appreciated. (I was perfectly fine) For the first time at the end of a gig, I called one of them over and thanked him for their efforts. Sweat was pouring off them all. He smiled and thanked me, promised to pass it on to the others and commented that it was rare for fans to acknowledge the effort they put into keeping everyone safe. Just proves a simple thank you goes a long way.