What’s the best thing about this year’s first ever Australian edition of Download Festival? Well, if you live in Brisbane, it’s the Sideshows baby! And if there was one that I was excited to see, it was Billboard Top 10 Charting, Grammy Award winning, Mastodon; supported by French Heavy Metal kings Gojira – This was already set to be a show of epic proportions.
While Mastodon have played this venue in the past and visited quite frequently over the years, this was Gojira’s first time back in Brisbane since Soundwave 2014 and their first time ever performing at The Eatons Hill Grand Ballroom – there were plenty of patient fans eager to wrap their listening gear around their set – live, up close, and personal.
The Ballroom is a sea of black band-shirts and as opening time draws closer whistling begins, devil horns rise, and the crowd starts beckoning their idols to the stage – “Go-ji-ra! Go-ji-ra!”
Technical death metal four-piece, Gojira take over the stage with blasts of pyrotechnics during the first song “Open Pain”, one of the most essential tracks from their intense and emotionally charged “Magma” release. Following that they take us back to 2005 with “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe”. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Joe Duplantier, manages to give light and shade to the performance with his mix of clean style, for songs like the opener, and death growling vocals, for others like “The Cell” – which the fans were absolutely elated to hear mid-set. Duplantier bantered with the crowd in between a few songs, endearingly expressing how grateful they were to be performing for us – the crowd responding with calls of love. Both Christian Andreu on lead guitar, and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass, bound around the stage with aggression and intensity, and the occasional smile and look of absolute elation. With their progressive, uncommon song structures, amazing riffs, and the foundation of Mario Duplantier’s thundering drum beats, Gojira give their Brisbane fans what they’ve been waiting for.
The Mastodon backdrop unfurls, last check of setup, and the lights go out. The silhouettes take their places on the stage, flanked by Orange stacks on the left and Marshall stacks on the right, devil horn salutes to the crowd – And it begins. They start with “Sultan’s Curse” – what a choice for opening track! The first song off their seventh studio Album, “Emperor of Sand”, which recently took away the win for Best Metal Performance at this years Grammy Awards. The prog metal, heavy stoner rock vibes fill the Ballroom sending the audience into the trance and collective high they have come to experience.
Multilayered complex instrumental bars married with vocal harmonies, Brann Dailor’s effortless drum fills and Brent Hinds’ signature solos.
Some of the audience members are clearly here for Hinds and his shredding, uncontrollably pulling out their air guitars and attempting to keep up with the master. “Show Yourself” and “High Road” were noticeable crowd favourites and chances for Mastodon and their audience to interact – clapping along and chanting on cue.
The mosh makes way for a circle pit mid-set – it was bound to happen, fun to witness – the energy from the band and the pit is infectious and seems to lift and unite the entire room of hungry metal-heads and music-lovers.
Troy Sanders uses every inch he can of that stage to thrash around his bass, regularly wielding it above his head like a trophy, breaking only when he needs to get to the mic to scream out those resonating vocals. Bill Kelliher on rhythm guitar moves about the stage almost as much as Sanders, leaning in over the fans reaching out from the barrier, giving a few fist-bumps mid-song and flicking guitar picks out into the eager mob. They make a promise to come back “sooner rather than later” (metal-heads rejoice!) and bust out with their last song of the night, 2004 release “Blood and Thunder”.
While his band members exit stage left, Dailor emerges from behind the kit, sharing a laugh with the crowd about local terminology -“Is it BrisVegas? Do I call you Brisbanians?” – expressing further gratitude to the crew and the fans, distributing a large handful of drumsticks. It was a nice touch.
After an hour and a half of solid Mastodon goodness, if your band shirt wasn’t stuck to your skin with sweat, then you weren’t there!
Review Contributed by Elizabeth Sharpe