It was a rainy Friday night in Vancouver, and there were many places that offered shelter from the wet weather. If you were a fan of hard rock or metal music, the Commodore Ballroom was a great choice for refuge, as two highly respected American bands — Mastodon and Clutch — were set to play their last night in Canada on The Missing Link Tour. Both bands established a friendship years before this tour was conceived, but they had never toured together. As such, this was an exciting evening for fans of both bands.
Big Business, a two-piece sludge metal duo from Seattle, opened the show at the Commodore with a deafening crescendo of cymbal work, courtesy of their drummer Coady Willis. His musicianship was evident in his use of unconventional time signatures and rhythmic tom work that appeared to be influenced by Tim Alexander’s and Josh Freese’s playing style on the album Mer de Noms by A Perfect Circle.
Jared Warren, Big Business’ bass guitarist, played melodies throughout each of their songs; but alas, they were too muddy in the live mix to be clearly heard and fully appreciated. Warren’s sludgy sound contrasted with the bass guitar ambience played between songs, which minimized stage banter as reverberation filled the Commodore Ballroom. His experimental tones were reminiscent of Justin Chancellor’s sound on the track “Lost Keys” from Tool’s album 10,000 Days.
During Big Business’ set, it was difficult not to make comparisons with another two-piece band with a drummer and bass guitarist: Death From Above 1979. Big bass tones coupled with distortion were the only similarity between these two groups, showing that rhythm section duos are not as limited as one would initially suspect.
Regarding vocal delivery, it would not be surprising for a visually impaired person to mistake Warren’s vocals for those of Joe Cocker (at his peak of raspiness). Cocker was an icon; Warren should be proud.
After a short sound check, members of Mastodon walked on stage holding their guitars in the air, the first of several gestures that acknowledged the crowd below them who eagerly anticipated the progressive metal assault awaiting them that evening. The set began with “Tread Lightly”, taken from Mastodon’s lastest LP Once More ‘Round the Sun, which easily won the praise of their head-banging followers. A mosh pit formed early on during Mastodon’s set when they busted out “Blasteroid”. No surprise there, as this particular number could easily have appeared on Dave Grohl’s metal side-project Probot if he decided to produce another similar compilation.
Everyone witnessing the impressive musicianship was floored by how tight the band played that night. Drummer Brann Dailor, for instance, played with the speed of renowned jazz drummer Dennis Chambers and the punishment delivered by Dave Grohl when he plays behind a kit. Hitting hard and playing quickly while maintaining your chops is no easy task. Each member traded off vocal duties on nearly every song which demonstrated their harmonic prowness. The melodic guitar work was another prominent piece of Mastodon’s live performance, featuring ferocious solos mainly played by Brent Hinds which complimented his goblin-like vocal delivery.
Closing the set featured a surprise appearance by Clutch’s Neil Fallon on “Blood and Thunder”. Everyone was quite pleased with seeing Fallon earlier than expected that night, as well as witnessing another older song taken from Mastodon’s Leviathan.
After a complete change in band gear – drum kit, amplifiers and mics — it was time for Clutch to headline tonight’s show, as Mastodon had the honor on the previous night in Vancouver. The sold-out crowd pushed forward to get as close as they could. Clearly, Mastodon was not the only attraction for many attendees. Clutch opened with an uptempo vibe to grab the crowd’s attention right away with “The Mob goes Wild”. Cruising further into their set, Clutch’s experience showed as they genre-hopped between danceable grooves, blues, reggae, hard rock and of course some metal — all paired with their fun-to-watch stage show. Their set blended a mix of material from their catalog, not just their newer songs, allowing older and newer fans to be satisfied by their performance. Even at the back, people sang along loudly (and proudly) as they pumped their fists in the air, while others jumped around like they should on a Friday night. Following Clutch’s departure from the stage, nearly everyone clapped for more songs following “One Eye Dollar”, the closing tune of the splendid show.
An intimate evening was had, and everyone in attendance stood around with grins on their faces after the lights illuminated the Commodore, indicating the concert’s end. Even as everyone made their way down the descending stairwell and out the doors onto Granville Street, the good vibes kept everyone dry from the rain.