Reviewed: Mastodon headline Bloodstock Open Air 2016

With a UK legacy of great shows already behind them and a fanbase that can be measured in the sheer number of their tshirts on display in the crowd today, Mastodon have stake their claim on Bloodstock’s Ronnie James Dio Stage as headliners.

Throwing down with moody opener ‘Tread Lightly’ Mastodon come out strong, unfortunately the sound does not. Luckily it’s quickly remedied and the melodic guitars of ‘Feast Your Eyes’, ‘Blasteroid’ and ‘Oblivion’ shine through. The crowd density of last night isn’t quite replicated tonight, you can pretty much wriggle to the front with relative ease, but Mastodon’s lighter sections seem to conjure a sort of sombre reverence where everyone is just appreciating the music.

Amusingly (albeit for those who are old enough to remember…. Sigh…) the five giant light panel installations behind the band, appear to be playing the entire Windows 98 screensaver catalogue. You know, the one with neon electricity or trippy tie-dye patterns that everyone thought they were super edgy and cool for having instead of the standard windows one your Dad used.

In a rare moment of crowd-interaction in Mastodon’s twenty-song onslaught, bassist Troy Sanders yells out “You guys are music hungry lovers, thank you” before the band swing into the harmonic vocals of ‘High Road’. However on a few of the others the words seem to be coming out so distorted you could almost swear the band are fluent in whale.

As the stage lights up in yellows and reds for ‘Ember City’ and the band call out “Are you fucking alive?” to the headbanging crowd, Mastodon seem to relax slightly into the show. Speaking of their first UK gig sixteen years ago at Camden Underworld, the band want us to know that they love us… “We knew we were going to have a special relationship with this country, you metalheads. When we’re home or on vacation… we talk about you guys! You nice British people”. Aww, isn’t that adorable?

Finishing up with ‘Megalodon’, ‘Colony of Birchmen’ and to an almighty roar of appreciation from the BOA arena, the huge ‘Blood and Thunder’ – Mastodon close the RJD stage for Saturday night with style. “Thank you for an unforgettable experience, we’re Mastodon, we love you”.

With their own unique brand of slowed down psychedelic sounds vs. hyper and heavy eardrum challenging metal, you could be forgiven for being on the fence about Mastodon, but tonight’s extremely tightly rehearsed set does everything to prove that above all else this band cares about music.

With a set that sounds almost identical to their album tracks (bar some vocal blurring from a production point of view) you almost with they’d break character a bit, interact in a less forced way. There’s a grittiness missing for sure, but Mastodon make up for it by being, well, precisely beautiful.

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.

All photos © A. Hyams 2016. Do not use without permission.

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