Skip to main content

Gojira live review – San Francisco, The Warfield

Metal gladiators Gojira tear up the West Coast, supported by Tesseract

Gojira live in San Francisco, 2016

Despite being nestled against the seediest side of the drug-addled Tenderloin district, The Warfield is a sound choice of venue for Goijra’s San Francisco visit. It is big enough to hold 2,000-plus fans and a safe bet in terms of audio and visual quality. A full hour after the doors open, the black-clad crowd still snakes around the block patiently tackling the ridiculous backlog caused by metal detectors. It is a comically antagonistic start to an otherwise euphoric night.

TESSERACT’s [9] support slot is a surprising but smart choice. While the British prog-metallers are beloved, their vocals are strikingly clean for the warm-up to what proves to be one of the most face-melting two hours imaginable. However, songs such as Of Matter: Retrospect really come to life when performed and the initially skeptical crowd seem quickly won over by their intricate, bass-forward songwriting. Daniel Tompkins’ dynamic vocals are strong, pure and measured. His slow-motion mannerisms take a bit of getting used to but somehow add to the heavy but precisely controlled drama. Where their recordings usually highlight their incredibly talented bassist, tonight the focus is on the drummer. Jay Postones performs out of his skin and takes Survival to a whole new level. This stadium-worthy latest single soars as the members abandon the last of their reserve, fall into the song, and let rip.

After a welcome period of recovery, at dead on 9:45pm, the moment of molten truth finally arrives. GOJIRA [10] storm on to showcase their precisely crafted recent release, Magma, and add one more atmospheric layer to their already unequivocally astonishing arsenal. The band bleed talent and play to within an inch of their lives tonight, as the crowd headbangs uncontrollably from the opening of Only Pain through to the crushing close of Vacuity.

Mario Duplantier starts the set with confident thudding drum rolls as the rest of the band pile onstage. All members seem to be at 200% charge tonight but bassist Jean-Michel Labadie is on another level; his stance is wide, his chops cut sharp, and his bass held high.

He gestures wildly to ramp up the crowd, flings his guitar down on its strap, snatches it as it bounces back up, spins 360˚ and then returns to fierce bent-double slamming again. His energy is a wonder to behold during Flying Whales in particular. Frontman Joe Duplantier, meanwhile, stands comparatively still and stern with a stage presence that is unique and immense, and his vocal range impressive as he switches between more haunting tones and full-blown roars. The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe sees the whole crowd throw the horns and join in for the deep death growls. Stellar new track Silvera follows in all of its ominous glory. Here, the vocals unite gruff narrative with a more ethereal, lofty chorus, and Joe’s fretwork is superb. The longer a note is held, the higher fans’ fists are held in the air. Yet another new track, Stranded, complete with its spectacular intro, proves people’s adoption of the latest release to be strong as it is screamed back by the crowd almost word for word. This is a tense, pent-up track live, full of fury and featuring another great solo from Gojira’s multitasking lead guitarist and frontman. There’s now a strong smell of weed and the pit is swaying in seasick turbulence. The noise generated by these four men is practically indecent and all of tonight’s six Magma tracks adapt brilliantly to being played live.

Certain songs are accompanied by daunting forces of nature projected on the giant screen behind the band; first a volcanic eruption, then lightning forks, and later creeping liquid dye. The imagery complements this French band’s explosive sound but also smartly captures the spirit of newer tracks. However, the performance is so intense, it’s tough to recall when the screen is on or off. Over the course of the evening we’ll see jets of smoke, red and green mood lighting, and harsh, cutting strobes. It’s a sensory overload. A timelapse of snowy mountains occupies the screen for Terra Inc. and shortly after comes the staple drum solo. It is a well-deserved moment for Mario, who powers on and keeps the energy high as the band pay a visit to older favourites such as Backbone, Toxic Garbage Island and Oroborus. Of course, more songs would be welcome but 15 tracks and two encores make for an awesomely exhausting night. Gojira’s formidable brutality, progressive groove-ridden guitar-work, and majestic stage presence all came together perfectly and if bringing the rousing grandeur of their new material to life was the ambition, it was nailed in epic proportions.

SETLIST

Only Pain

The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe

Silvera

Stranded

Flying Whales

The Cell

Backbone

Terra Inc.

Wisdom Comes

The Shooting Star

Toxic Garbage Island

Pray

ENCORE

Clone

Oroborus

ENCORE

Vacuity