I have seen Mastodon three times in as many years. Over time, I’ve noticed that the crowds and the general “feel” of the shows change with their growing popularity. Fewer dudes with jean jackets, a slightly less skewed male-female ratio, people who look like they maintain actual careers. The music has changed, too. The band’s previous album, Crack the Skye, had fans raving and critics declaring the Atlanta foursome the next all-time great metal band (unfortunately, it put this writer to sleep). Now the group is touring behind a new-new album The Hunter, and while it’s a marked improvement (hey, they’re writing riffs again!), their performance made it all too clear that they’re not the band they were even five years ago.
Sure, the new stuff is not too bad. But hearing it mixed in with the band’s older material in a live setting makes it clear that it has no teeth. New jam “Blasteroid” is a nice enough tune, but nestled between Leviathan’s crushing “Megalodon” and Blood Mountain’s “Sleeping Giant,” it comes off as the runt of the litter. The crowd seemed into the new material, though, somewhat to the detriment of the atmosphere. Hearing “Curl of the Burl” receive the rousing ovation that classics like “Where Strides the Behemoth” didn’t receive made it a little less fun to jam out. A part of me wanted to yell at the kids with X's on their hands: “Hey, this is off Remission. Time to get in the damn pit.”
The final straw came at the close of the show. If you’ve been to a Mastodon show before (or know much about them), you know “Blood and Thunder” is a strong contender for best closing track ever. They just gotta kick out the jam and the show is salvaged, right? Last night, they rocked “Blood and Thunder” — and then launched into an abortive new track, “Creature Lives,” to cap off the evening. Kind of a shame.
Supporting mathcore superstars the Dillinger Escape Plan ended up stealing the show. Their legendary live set brought the atmosphere of a basement hardcore show to the Beaumont, and concluded memorably with guitarist Ben Weinman hanging from the rafters by his feet while shredding crowd favorite “43% Burnt.” Fellow openers Red Fang brought the kind of sludgy, bluesy riffs that sound really, really good after a couple of beers and a bar fight.