Published Nov 28, 2011With Mastodon already doing more than 20 performances on their North American tour for The Hunter, either the band were going to be at the top of their game, or starting to show the unpleasant effects of road dementia. Thankfully for Toronto, it was definitely the former.
First, though, Portland's Red Fang performed an almost perfect opening set, wowing the crowd with "Prehistoric Dogs," off of their 2009 self-titled debut and fan favourites "Malverde" and "Wires" off of their latest, Murder the Mountains. The versatility of their music, from sludgy metal to Southern-fried hard hippie rock, complemented the musical dexterity of the headlining band.
By the time Dillinger Escape Plan hit the stage, the audience had turned from a bunch of dudes and dudettes chugging beer and (somewhat) quietly soaking in the opener, to a frenzied mess. It didn't help when singer Greg Puciato walked onstage, silently observed the crowd, made a "what the hell?" gesture, jumped into the pit and was immediately pulled over the barrier by fans. When guitarist Ben Weinman bum-rushed the stage, DEP did what they do best: creating chaos to accompany a chaotic set of tracks like "Farewell Mona Lisa" and Milk Lizard."
Mastodon's live performances have always been hit or miss, with many critics cringing when they released the recent Live at the Aragon. While the music has always been on point, the vocals have been, well, challenged. But any reservations were immediately forgotten as soon as drummer Brann Dailor started their set off with with "Dry Bone Valley" from The Hunter, as his surprisingly crisp vocals were pitch perfect.
Along with a hefty dose of The Hunter, their set primarily consisted of tracks from 2006's Blood Mountain, such as a groovier take on "Colony of Birchmen," and a couple from 2009's Crack the Skye. Brent Hinds showed off his new guitar, a Lucite Flying V Strat, and he, Dailor and bassist Troy Sanders (who nailed The Hunter's "Spectrelight") deftly showed off their impressive harmonies on "Creature Lives." All in all, the night found Mastodon delivering arguably their best Toronto performance, hands down.