I don’t get out too much. I get to a concert in the city (roughly) once a year. Last year, Wilf and I saw Bad Religion on Easter Sunday (awesome). This year, Craig and I got our metal on. We were pummeled.
We bombed down to Toronto, unsure of how it’d go (the Gardiner Expressway is a mess. Is it ever not?). We checked into the hotel, had a couple of beers in the lobby, then hit a restaurant on the Esplanade for a $25 wagyu beef burger and a dark chocolate stout. It was getting later (the web had said show’s start was 6:30pm) and I figured we’d missed the opening act, Kvelertak). We cabbed over to the Sound Academy and got ready to rock.
The line was long but moved quickly. Security said no one had played yet – they were running behind so we hadn’t missed anything! I had never been to the Sound Academy before. It’s a small, narrow hall with a balcony around top – we apparently had balcony ‘seats’ but we weren’t going up there – the floor is the place to be. Reviews of this show online (after the fact) seem to universally hate this venue. Myself, I didn’t find it too bad, but then again, I don’t get out too often. At the crushing volume with which we were hammered this night, it hardly mattered anyway.
The place was fairly jammed with people when we got in, and it only filled up more as the night went on. Everywhere we saw black t-shirts proclaiming the wearer’s favourite metal band. I rocked my button-down plaid old man’s shirt – ironically, of course. The bar service was quick and friendly. The line-up for merch precluded even trying to get near it to have a look-see.
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Kvelertak took stage and immediately began to try to destroy us. Their sound is big, with three guitars and bass lined across the stage like an army. The lead singer came onstage in a weird mask with wings for the intro, then discarded that and just went batshit for the whole set. He screamed, raised his arms, stomped menacingly… he did this thing where he’d spit straight up into the air and then catch it with his hand. Why? I dunno, it’s fucking metal! The music itself was really, really good. They had excellent energy, and they did exactly what an opening act on a three-band bill is supposed to do: work the crowd into a frenzy. They did just that, with aplomb. Having not heard a note of their music before the show, I was impressed. I wonder if the CD is as good!
*As of this posting, no setlist for Kvelertak could be found online.*
When they finished, I hit the head. This is not news, but it’s a truth of the Universal that beer goes right through me. Really, I only rent beer. And I only mention any of this because there was a dude in the john whose job, it seemed, was to be handing out towels, hoping for tips. He was shouting strangely hilarious things over and over, like “Once you touch your cock you wash your hands!” and “I love pussy!” I didn’t tip him. It was the strangest public washroom experience I’ve (maybe) ever had.
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The room filled to the brim and Gojira took the stage. Folks, I have seen a lot of shows in my years on this planet, and I have seen many excellent acts, and I can say without question (in my humble opinion) that this band was fucking AWESOME. I’ll admit, I was here to see Mastodon (I love that band), and I was very excited to see Gojira. They’d come around with Slayer, well, half of Slayer, last fall but I’d balked at the $90 ticket price. My buddy Wilf said it was gonna be great. But holy fuck. They are HUGE. This band, I swear. The sound was just massive, the musicianship was stunning, the stage presence was incredible. I would see this band again anytime, anywhere. I was not just impressed, I was BLOWN AWAY. What a fucking show! Two metal horns all the way up for the mighty fucking Gojira!!
2.The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
6.Toxic Garbage Island
7.In the Forest
Honestly, if Mastodon wasn’t due next, I might have left, and happily. We’d already seen metal at its finest, it was already a complete concert. Gojira is truly a headlining act worthy of their own show. But I came for Mastodon, I would stay for Mastodon, and I was not disppointed. They were in fine, flying form indeed. Are they ever not? OF COURSE NOT.
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Craig and I saw Mastodon 2011-11-25 in Toronto, at the Kool Haus on The Hunter tour. I reviewed that show right here. The short version of the review at that link is that that concert was essentially my introduction to the band and they blew me away. I count myself lucky to have had their crushing live show be the first time I’d heard many of their songs. Since then, I’ve bought all their records and I spin them regularly. I love ‘em. The chance to see them again, on this tour, was a no-brainer.
If you’ve ever seen Mastodon live, you’ll know exactly what we witnessed. If not, just know that this was (yet again) a stellar set by a band playing at its prime and killing it for every track. They leave nothing out, their entire beings bleed onto the stage. Troy Saunders leans into his playing like a man possessed; Brent Hinds howls and rocks his guitar like a fiend; Bill Kelliher goes about his business with punishing professionalism and zero bullshit, and Brann Dailor… well, Brann Dailor on drums is a fucking monster. What a drummer!! Anyone in the room who has ever lifted a drum stick and tried making music on a kit just got taken to school by the performance of this guy. Holy shit, what a band!!
They played 18 songs overall, though it was very early on indeed that they’d proven they were worthy of our undying devotion. They played a couple of songs from their upcoming album, which fit into the setlist of older stuff seamlessly. They played a lot of heavy rockers. They played several slower, droning yet brutally heavy songs too. The light show was excellent. This show was a total trip. They left nothing to chance, they never once faltered, they rocked it fully. My first impression of this band way back when was bang-on – they deserve every accolade. I cannot wait for the new record.
MASTODON!!! FUCK YEAH!! \m/ \m/
14.Chimes at Midnight
When we stumbled out of the venue and into the warm May night, stealing a cab from a fare that never showed up, I knew we had been in the presence of greatness on this evening. Kvelertak proved more than worthy. Gojira fucking stomped us completely. And Mastodon was the heavy metal coup de grâce.
I have seen many great shows, but this one… it was one of the greatest. Both metal horns raised all the way!
Thank you Craig, for everything!
PS: Please note that I have included, for the purposes of this review, shitty and blurry photos of each band that I took with my crappy HTC cell phone. I was a paying customer at the show and I am a metal fan. These photos are not posted for any monetary gain or advertising purposes (or any other nefarious reason your litigious mind can envision). I just thought it would add to the experience to show everyone a little of what we saw. If, for any reason, it’s legitimately against some actual rule (of which I’m truly unaware) for me to post these (I doubt it, but one never knows), drop a comment or email me, prove you’re an authority who can enforce it, and I’ll take the photos down immediately. No harm or ill intent was intended in posting these photos. Much love and power to the bands. A.