Mastodon – Belfast, Ulster Hall, 28/06/2015

Mastodon live at Ulster Hall, Belfast, 28 June 2015“I told you we’d be fucking back!”  It may be somewhat unusual to start a review at the end, but drummer Brann Dailor’s closing remarks to the audience are important for contextualizing what had happened over the previous hour-and-a-half or so.  You see, it had only been a little more than six months since Mastodon had headlined the Limelight, just ’round the corner (literally) from the Ulster Hall; despite the quickness of their return to Belfast – on this, the last night of a four-date tour of Ireland – the Atlanta quartet had not only managed to sell out a second gig in less than a year, but to do so with the latter in a bigger venue.

Openers Bad Breeding inevitably had an almost uneviable task – and it was one to which the Stevenage four piece were not ideally suited.  Their manic, dark indie punk, which draws reference to the likes of The Hives, is characterized by crashing, discordant guitars over admittedly tight rhythms:  however, their big failing is their lack of interaction with the crowd, with the singer seeming to be more caught up in what he is doing than what is going on stage front – even if he does dive into the nascent pit for their final song.

Mastodon live at Ulster Hall, Belfast, 28 June 2015Mastodon take to the stage to rapturous applause and immediately captivate with their dark, densely woven rhythms and vibrant grooves, which rumble and roar around the hallowed confines of this historic venue.  Almost as immediately, it is obvious that there are a few niggling problems with the vocal mix, especially on Brent Hinds’ mic, while Dailor’s drums are just a tad too prominent, but this does not detract from the sense of palpable catharsis hanging in the air – especially as the overall mix is otherwise crystal clear, especially when it comes to the tightness of Hinds and Bill Kelliher’s guitar interplay – as those not dancing or trying to record as much of the set as possible on their smart ‘phones are drawn in to every word and psyche-tinged note, and every song is greeted with roof-raising rapture.

It is almost exactly an hour before, during the introduction to ‘Ember City’, Troy Sanders finally addresses the crowd directly, but until that point there is no need for direct verbal interaction, as it is the songs and the nuances of facial and physical gestures which do all the talking the band need and provoke an almost evangelical reaction from the faithful gathered before them on this Sunday evening.  The pit traverses the width of the stage and back again, voices are raised high, and fists even higher, as the audio experience washes around the auditorium with a blissful ease, before the band finish with an affectionate if slightly too heavy but suitably rousing cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’.

Brent Hinds may have recently gone on the record stating how much he hates playing “fucking heavy metal” and how he doesn’t want to be in a heavy metal band – but he and his band mates certainly know how to put on a heavy metal show, with the emphasis on the heavy.

Set list:

Tread Lightly / Once More ‘Round The Sun / Blasteroid / Oblivion / The Motherload / Chimes At Midnight / High Road / Aqua Dementia / Ol’e Nessie / Halloween / Blade Catcher / Black Tongue / Ember City / Megalodon / Crystal Skull


The Czar / Emerald

Photographs by Marc Leach.

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About Mark Ashby

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