19 Dec 2018
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Gig Review: Mastodon & Gojira @ Trusts Arena, Auckland 31/03/18

01 Apr 2018 // A review by Alex Moulton

Storm the Gates has definitely been following the “Go Big or Go Home” philosophy and is yet to put on a show without issues, but as far as this Easter Show is concerned, at least they weren’t the reason for the problem and tried to keep the fans as updated as possible. The problem instead came down to an issue with the freighting of Gojira and Mastodon’s gear, which was looking like it would lead to the cancellation of the show. That isn’t the New Zealand way, however, and in true Kiwi fashion, local artists were making trips to drop off their own gear to loan to these international giants, so that the show could go on. The logistics of sorting this combination of different equipment clearly created delays, and as the day went on, fans were being inundated with changes to the set times, until half an hour after doors opened, when it was announced that unfortunately, both local opening acts would no longer be performing. A bummer for the bands, but understandable given the circumstances.

This led to a splitting of the crowd, most going into the arena, but many choosing to use the extra hour to head to the local bar down the road for refreshments. I mention this purely because, despite the long hair, tattoos, piercings, black shirts, or shaven heads, I witnessed one of the most courteous queues in my lifetime. No mobbing of the bar; everybody waited in a single line and chatted to each other about who they were most excited to see. That is the side of the rock and metal community that rarely gets shown to the outside world.

French heavy metal act Gojira were now the opening act for the night, and with only a forty-minute set, they got straight into it with Only Pain from their latest album Magma. The crowd needed no warming up, as they pushed towards the front, devil horns in the air. The sound was thick and meaty, impacting you when you entered the arena, drawing everyone in. The first half of their set was mostly comprised of tracks from Magma, with the latter half focusing more on their earlier material going back as far as throwing in a portion of their 2003 track Remembrance.  The crowd was going insane through Silvera, Stranded and Flying Whales and frontman Joe Duplantier was relishing in the sight, frequently referring to the crowd as “insane”. The first time that Gojira have performed on our shores and they weren’t pulling any punches. Even with borrowed gear, they created a beautiful ambience of heaviness that had the crowd engaged throughout the entire set. No sign of boredom, no need to stand there with your phone in hand. The crowd was enraptured by the performance and living in the moment. Closing off their short nine-track set, they tried to placate the audience with the simple explanation of “Life is short, get over it” before finishing with the heavy-hitter, Vacuity.

The final act for the night were headliners, Mastodon, and for their fourth time in New Zealand, they completed a marathon performance with minimal banter, completing 20 tracks in 90 minutes. Heading straight out as soon as the equipment was soundchecked, the crowd went wild to the sounds of Sultan’s Curse. One thing that can be said for Mastodon, is they are an exciting band to watch perform; no static performances here, guitars are in the air, drumsticks are frequently thrown into the crowd mid-song, and bassist Troy Sanders’ hair was all over the place as he went on a windmill headbanging rampage. It wasn’t until three tracks in, when Mastodon first acknowledged the crowd; a band of minimal banter. As the show was being included as part of their Emperor of Sands tour, it was expected that the album would be prevalent in the set list and over a third of the tracks for the night came from that very album. The remainder of the set list pulled a selection of tracks from nearly all of their other studio albums and EPs (2001’s Lifesblood being the only release excluded). 

The crowd shifted in demeanour as the set progressed, losing the aggressiveness that they had gained during Gojira’s set, becoming much more tranquil in the face of these sludge/stoner metal legends. The crowd actually dissipated and spread throughout the arena, choosing to observe the show in comfort, and leaving the core group of moshers to their thing. The lighting guy was having the time of his life, switching modes and tempos switching with the music, but while engaging to watch from a distance, consistently bathing the entire band in a single colour, did make it more difficult to properly see what was going on onstage. Instrumentally, the show was going off without a hitch, with the exception of the bass guitar/amp which seemed to be struggling and was far too distorted and crackling throughout the set, putting a damper on the ambience set up by Dailor, Kelliher, and Hinds. Mastodon are the definitive example of maturity, with well-balanced tracks, and taking shared responsibilities on vocals, which are themselves sparse throughout the musical odyssey’s. 

Before the final block of tracks, they busted out track after track from Emperor of the Sun, winding up the crowd in the moshpit with a selection of their most recent treasures, in the form of Show Yourself, Precious Stones, and Roots Remain. Neither band felt the need to wander off and wait for the crowd to cheer them back. It wasn’t a night for time-wasting traditions, and “suspense” acts, they played through, ending their set with the hard-hitting rendition Blood & Thunder. After the set had ended and everyone had vacated the stage Dailor took up a post front and centre to remind the crowd how close the show was to not happening, and how thankful they were that everyone managed to come together to make sure they didn’t leave the next day without playing, even giving a shout-out to the would-be opening bands Mothra and Just One Fix, encouraging fans to get to their shows and support them.

They exhibited humility before the crowd and have converted many casual music fans into die hard Mastodon fans. A brilliant night that almost never was.


Review written by Alex Moulton

 

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