Review: Baroness plays extensive, long-awaited set at State Theatre in St. Petersburg
"We used to tour Florida like half the year," Baroness frontman John Baizley said midway through their set Wednesday at St. Pete's State Theatre. "I don't know why it's been so long."
Indeed, the Savannah metal act has been a scarce presence in the Sunshine State as of late, and Wednesday's show was apparently their first-ever in St. Pete. But then it's also been a turbulent couple of years for the group, including recovering from a serious bus crash in 2012.
Either way, Baroness more than made up for their absence on Wednesday. First Baizley, who does the band's Alphonse Mucha-by-way-of-metal album artwork, held an art show across the street at Daddy Kool Records. Then the group played a comprehensive, 90-minute set at State Theatre.
Opening for them was Arkansas doom metal act Pallbearer, who were last seen in the Tampa Bay area opening for Deafheaven. Included in their setlist was a new song from an upcoming album they said should be released early next year.
Baroness is nowhere near as divisive in the metal world as Deafheaven, but they're equally unafraid to blend or experiment with genres. In any given song, elements of metal, gruff rock, post-rock and more might appear.
The majority of the group's setlist came from last year's comeback album Purple, which is their record that's most diverse in its sound. The straightforward blistering metal of Morningstar exists comfortably alongside the moody, almost trip-hop instrumental Fugue, and the epic album closes with the strange, Fitter Happier-esque 17-second track Crossroads of Infinity.
That musical adventurousness translated into Baroness' live set, which made more prominent use of a keyboard (played by bassist Nick Jost) than is typical at a metal show. Both on record and in person, Purple feels like the kind of go-for-broke album one might make after a near-death experience.
Yet their setlist also drew heavily from Yellow & Green, the 2012 record they released and toured on before their bus crash, ranging from the pummeling Take My Bones Away to the post-rock of Green Theme. Considering the scope of that 75-minute double album, perhaps it's a mistake to ascribe any ambition to the aftermath of that accident.
Even in their earlier and heavier material, Baroness has always been fairly accessible. That's in part due to Baizley's vocals, which are gruff-but-clean in the way that it makes sense they've played Gainesville's No Idea-adjacent Fest multiple times.
So it was fitting that the audience assembled seemed to be fairly diverse as well, only uniform in their excitement to finally see the group. The crowd was energetic throughout the entire 90-minute set without becoming constricting, even as the venue was sweaty and packed.
And the band responded to them in turn. Baizley said Wednesday's show was their rowdiest one on their tour and following their encore, promised that they'd be back soon. A common refrain at concerts, to be sure, but this time it really did feel like it might not be long before this part of Florida gets another visit from them.