Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA— No one can say Baroness aren’t professionals. After two years away from the road, an all-request tour where everything in their roughly 80-song catalog is on the table? Impressive. Ticketholders for each show were able to vote for which songs they wanted to hear, but I unfortunately missed the link in the ticket confirmation email, so I was at the mercy of my fellow audience members, who apparently prefer newer material than I do. The albums beyond the first two are defined by a certain melodrama that doesn’t quite speak to me, but they have enough inventive riffs and knotty guitarmonies to keep me listening, so the fact that nine of the 10 songs in the request portion of the set came from those later albums wasn’t a problem, even if it was mildly disappointing. But ultimately the two-hour set included two songs from Red Album and three from Blue Record, so perhaps the most important takeaway is that I did indeed have a sore neck the next day.
This is the third and best Baroness lineup I’ve seen, accentuated by Kung Fu Necktie being the most intimate venue I’ve seen the band play. (This show was the third of a three-night stand at KFN, and the final show of the tour.) John Baizley, the sole remaining founding member, is obviously the lynchpin (and I’m always amazed at how he can sustain his forceful vocal style, which somehow seems more taxing than that of even the most caustic metal screamers), but for my money, the MVP is the newest addition, lead guitarist Gina Gleason. I’ve been following her Instagram for awhile, and I’ve enjoyed her contributions to Two Minutes to Late Night, and in addition to her dazzling instrumental prowess, I don’t think there’s a cynical bone in her body. Her performances exude a palpable joy, so much the better when experienced live. Elsewhere on the stage, I remembered near the end of the show that Sebastian Thomson’s drumming, both fluid and crisp, was mainly familiar to me from his work in Trans Am, who I last saw 20 years ago.
Anyway, this was definitely the best Baroness show I’ve seen, and another highlight of the welcome return of live music.