There’s no doubt that tonight is all about last year’s fantastic album, Once More ’Round The Sun.
Swedish psychedelic rockers Graveyard open up proceedings with songs as bluesy as the tight denim they’re sporting. And while Clutch are co-headliners on this tour, billed as The Missing Link, complete with a buzzing Neil Fallon, it’s Mastodon who have the run of the stage tonight. Clomping onstage in plaid shirts, tight jeans and ridiculous beards, they’re like those incredibly cool uncles who never quite told you what they did for a job.
They’re not a band who really like to chat between songs, preferring to allow their incredible, infernal musicianship to take the limelight. It’s something that can be a gripe for those demanding something more of a spectacle, but even during the super heavy metal early years, they’ve always been a muso’s band. They play Megalodon and Aqua Dementia off Leviathan, and Bladecatcher from Blood Mountain, as if to shred that point. Watching the bonkers riffs peel off the cuticles of Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher in real life is something you’ll talk fondly about to grandchildren who won’t care. It’s the kind of immersive experience that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles other bands might employ. That’s not to say the very standard light show doesn’t do a fine job, it’s just it’s not essential.
It takes a couple of special moments to hear any non-song words at all tonight: a few muttered comments from Brent Hinds about fellow Atlantans The Coathangers after they join Mastodon onstage to yelp their bits from Aunt Lisa and, right at the end, once the final chords of The Czar ring out around Hollywood, there’s a deadpan monologue from Brann Dailor. Once the rest of the band have walked offstage – no hint or chance of a pantomime encore here – the drummer takes a minute to chat to the crowd. He tells them about touring with Clutch over a decade ago and he talks repeatedly about being old.
They’re no young pups any more, that’s for sure, but as long as they’re crafting albums in the top percentile of their genre – any genre, really – and continue to play them so diligently, they’ll be touring for another decade.
There could and should be another generation clamouring to get see these shows, just to say they were there.