Review, Photos: The Melvins’ aural assault on GAMH

The Melvins

Photos: Alessio Neri

SAN FRANCISCO — The sold-out crowd inside the Great American Music Hall hummed with excitement as the Melvins took the stage for their sixth show in a marathon 62-date American tour in support of their new double album A Walk with Love and Death.

Following an atmospheric opening set by the Spotlights, The Melvins stormed the stage. Looking vaguely menacing, guitarist King Buzzo took the stage in his customary black onesie and his shock of grey Sideshow Bob hair as the band launched into a cover of Flipper’s “Sacrifice.” What followed was a heavy metal pummeling from one of the hardest working bands in rock and roll.

The band quickly ran through some of its earlier hits: the blistering assault of  “Oven” segueing into the caterwauling of “Anaconda” and “Queen,” which featured Buzzo singing in his guttural roar, “I’ve got time to wish away,” and fan favorite “The Kicking Machine,” off 2008’s Nude with Boots. Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald patrolled the stage, occasionally striking a rock pose, looking somewhat like Journey frontman Steve Perry in full sleeveless glory, his long brown locks falling in his face.

In addition to the Flipper cover that kicked off the show, the Melvins also played a cover of Bowie’s “Saviour Machine” with McDonald on vocals along with a fully souped-up and suitably heavy version of The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” replete with tempo changes and demonic power chords. The capacity crowd greeted each of the early hits with enthusiastic head banging and devil horns as Dale Crover’s pounding drumbeats filled the hall like distant thunder.

The band has clearly learned a thing or two over the course of its 30-year career. The songs naturally flowed one into the next, occasionally building into colossal walls of sound, pummeling monoliths composed of power chords, a barrage of drums, and Buzzo’s battlecry vocals.

The crowd, which, from the looks of it, had seen a few Melvins shows before, withstood the aural assault and clamored for more. As I emerged from the concert, ears ringing, into the cool air of a San Franciscan July night, I felt reborn, as if a layer of old skin had been blasted off.

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