Concert Review | Up close and personal with the Mastodon beast

***** (5 stars out of 6); January 16 at Store Vega

Following a commendable set by Oregon-based openers Red Fang, the lights went down on an eager, near-capacity audience at Vega.

Out lumbered Mastodon’s larger-than-life guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, his left foot in a brace after breaking it the night before. Quickly joined by his cohorts – bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer/vocalist Brann Dailor – the foursome launched into ‘Dry Bone Valley’ from its latest album The Hunter, and from there never looked back.

In a two-hour show featuring career-spanning tracks, a simple but effective light show set against a giant menacing Hunter background, and boundless energy, Mastodon put on a concert that was loud, fast, hard and crazy – in other words, just what the crowd wanted.

Showcasing nine of The HunterÂ’s thirteen songs, this was in many ways a much different concert than the bandÂ’s 2011 Roskilde set. And though the band more than held their own on the Orange Stage, Monday nightÂ’s concert proved that the best way to feel the brute strength of Mastodon is in closer quarters.

As the Atlanta quartet roared through the early part of their set, which was heavy on tracks from 2004Â’s Leviathan and 2006Â’s Blood Mountain, the band and the audience continually fed off each other. Sanders seemed to be particularly impressed to see a young boy rocking out with his father in the upper balcony, gesturing to him numerous times as he screeched out his vocals.

What’s clear when you see Mastodon is that, although this is a band that has reached critical and popular heights in a genre dominated by tough-guy preening and über-seriousness, this is a band that has fun. This was no robotic performance; the energy and excitement coming from the band was palpable. They were even spotted doing that most un-metal of things – smiling.

By the time Vega reverberated with the sing-along chorus “Just close your eyes/and pretend that everything’s fine” from ‘All the Heaving Lifting’, immediately followed by a mosh pit frenzy during ‘Spectrelight’, the show was operating on all cylinders.

Far from peaking early, however, things got even nuttier with the closing trio of ‘Iron Tusk’, ‘March of the Fire Ants’ and ‘Blood and Thunder’. Following this face-melting onslaught, the band once again showed its lighter side by inviting the Red Fang members on stage for a sing-along to the somewhat-goofy ‘Creature Lives’.

Building on the feel-good vibe, Sanders then led the crowd in a show-closing ‘Happy Birthday’ serenade for his hobbled bandmate Hinds.

MondayÂ’s show was followed by a gig at Voxhall in Aarhus. The very next day, it was announced that Mastodon would be back in Denmark already in June, this time as part of a Copenhell lineup that also includes fellow heavy-hitters Slayer, Anthrax, and Lamb of God.