Mastodon: Live at Brixton

This is a well-made concert film of Mastodon at their best. And the 23-song setlist covers their whole catalog.


Mastodon Live at Brixton

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release date: 2013-12-06
UK Release date: 2013-12-06

Mastodon’s second live release comes a scant two and a half years (and one studio album) after their first. Why follow the first one so quickly? Well, Mastodon’s tour in support of their 2009 concept album Crack the Skye featured the band playing the entire album straight through. The performances were backed by an elaborate video presentation that literally laid out the album’s story.

Live at the Aragon was a CD+DVD package release that served specifically to capture that performance, and also included the backdrop film as a separate thing on the DVD. But those shows didn’t leave much room for the band’s other material. Once they finished performing Crack the Skye, Mastodon made a quick run through their earlier stuff, playing one song apiece from their earlier records.

Live at Brixton is a much more inclusive show. It contains 23 songs from across the band’s catalog. This concert was recorded smack dab in the middle of the band’s tour in support of their 2011 album, The Hunter, so it’s naturally heavy on songs from that record. But the show also found the band playing five songs apiece from fan-favorite albums Leviathan and Blood Mountain, as well as a pair from Remission and another pair from Crack the Skye. This is a concert that will be familiar to anyone who saw the band on the initial tour for The Hunter. According to the contributors at, the set here is exactly the same as the rest of their European leg. For North American fans, the only difference is the presence of “Thickening” right in the middle of the set. Mastodon is apparently not the kind of band who likes to change things up from night to night.

The video and audio presentation here is very good. Even the low-resolution video link supplied by Warner Bros. for review looks nice, so one assumes the high-res version is crystal clear. Sonically, the show is very, very loud, which is completely appropriate for Mastodon. The mixing is excellent, as each individual instrument can be heard at most times. Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher’s guitars dominate the sound, but Brann Dailor’s drumming is also very high in the mix. Even Troy Sanders’ bass playing is audible much of the time, including when he’s doubling the guitar riffs but much moreso when he has his own individual bassline.

Director Ryan Mackfall captures the band from a wide variety of angles and cuts between them appropriately. Guitar solos often get nice close-ups of Hinds or Kelliher working the frets. Dailor’s complex drumming also gets plenty of screentime. As strong as the axe men are in Mastodon, Dailor is frequently considered the star of the show, so it’s great to see so much of him calmly pounding away on his kit. The video utilizes a camera from right behind the drums so fans can see exactly what Dailor is doing in those shots.

As for the setlist itself, this is a show that emphasizes the heavier side of Mastodon’s sound. After the more progressive, spacier sounds of Crack the Skye, The Hunter was an album that found Mastodon exploring a variety of sonic territory. But next to their older songs, the tracks from The Hunter that show up in this concert fit in quite nicely. The show opens with “Dry Bone Valley” and “Black Tongue” and follows seamlessly with “Crystal Skull” and “I Am Ahab”. The supremely technical workout of “Capillarian Crest” is an early show highlight, as is the punishing “Colony of Birchmen.” “Megalodon” closes out the opening salvo and the band settles into the middle of the show.

Deep cuts from The Hunter like “Blasteroid” and “All the Heavy Lifting” are broken up with older tracks like “Sleeping Giant” and “Ghost of Karelia”, but this whole section feels a bit perfunctory. When the band gets to the catchy single “Curl of the Burl” things start to pick up again. On The Hunter, that song’s vocal melody was foregrounded, but here the chunky guitar riffs and heavy low end get more emphasis. “Curl” gets Mastodon on the road to the end of the show, so a lot of their heavy hitters come out. “Circle of Cysquatch”, “Iron Tusk”, and “March of the Fireants” all get strong performances and the show finishes out with an intense run through “Blood and Thunder.”

For the encore, Mastodon brings up openers Red Fang and the Dillinger Escape Plan to join in a massive sing along of “Creature Lives”, one of the few blatantly goofy songs the band has ever recorded. But in the encore position, with hundreds of red balloons dropping and popping all over the audience and a dozen people onstage singing, the song becomes a joyful celebration designed to put a smile on everybody’s face.

“Creature Lives” also highlights the elephant in the room (pun intended) when it comes to Mastodon: the vocals. Hinds and Sanders handle 90 percent of the group’s vocals, and both are mediocre vocalists on their best days. So live shows with Mastodon are a roll of the dice from a singing standpoint. But here they sound about as good as they can, and the mixing keeps the vocals from standing out. Sanders and Hinds are audible at all times, but they’re definitely mixed a bit under the instruments, which, with Mastodon, is pretty much how it should be.

The exception here is Dailor, who is actually quite a solid singer. Whenever the band plays a Crack the Skye or Hunter track, Dailor’s singing noticeably improves the sound of the band. But it’s Mastodon, and if you’re enough of a fan to spring for this digital-only release, chances are you know going in that the vocals aren’t going to be the highlight of the show.

Similarly, the visual presentation of the concert isn’t all that impressive. Unlike the Crack the Skye shows, this concert found the band playing in front of a large scrim that simply had the cover of The Hunter on it. Lighting-wise, mostly the band is covered in single colors of light depending on the song. It’s usually red, green, or blue. The band has about a dozen smaller lights that are used for emphasis and occasionally fancy moving light schemes, but that effect is muted on video because the focus is so strongly on the performers. The viewer only gets to see the light show when the video cuts to a wide shot of the band, so it all seems a bit bland.

But Mastodon has a reputation as a no-frills metal band. A cool light show isn’t the selling point here. This is a well-made concert film of a band playing at their best. And the set covers their whole career. Which is really all Mastodon fans should need to be pleased with Live at Brixton.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.