I’d been counting down the days until Sleep’s appearance at The Wiltern since the band announced the show back in March. Although I was never a huge fan prior to their breakup in 1997, the past few years have re-piqued my interest in the stoner-rock trio. Following their highly anticipated reformation in 2009 for the UK’s All Tomorrow’s Parties and The Fans Strike Back festivals, the band performed a handful of dates through select US cities over the course of 2010, and while they maintained a low profile for the first part of this year, Sunday’s show was one of two stateside performances lined up for 2011.

As per usual, LA traffic prevented me from arriving in a timely manner, and after spending several minutes with security defending the empty Vapur bottle in my bag (which was somehow mistaken for drug paraphernalia), I made it into the venue just in time to catch Harvey Milk’s last song. Although I initially intended on checking out the band’s entire set, as well as Scott “Wino” Weinrich’s Premonition 13, time was not on my side Sunday; as opposed to beating myself up over the missed opportunity, I chose to drown my sorrows in a $12 beer and post up at front of house instead.

As the band made their way onto the giant stage, drummer Jason Roeder raised his palms in a prayer position before taking a seat behind his kit. A shirtless Matt Pike emerged from stage left, hiding a giant grin behind his long, dark hair and nodding in gratitude to his legion of fans. The opening notes of “Dopesmoker” immediately set the crowd into a trance as a sea of heads bobbed along to the slow, heavy beat.

A cloud of smoke billowed towards the front of the stage as the band began churning out the crowd-pleasing “Holy Mountain” (see my somewhat shaking yet pretty good sounding video below). While Al Cisneros’ talents have always impressed me, I was blown away by how crushing his bass tone actually was. The last time I saw him play was at The Echo with Shrinebuilder, and although he was by far the most animated of the group that evening, the dark, paltry room did not do him justice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uymmh9j7XAM

The Iommian intro to “Dragonaut” followed, with images of imploding galaxies blazing behind the band on a giant projection screen. The doomy, down-tuned track gave way to the likes of “Aquarian,” “From Beyond,” and the indomitable, “Sonic Titan,” before Sleep hit the final notes of the labyrinthine-esque “Cultivator.”

Mammoth riffs pummeled for nearly two hours, and as the final notes were played and the crowd roared in applause, I reflected on how inspiring the whole performance had been. More than a decade since their untimely demise, Sleep still has it. Here’s to hoping that a new album is on the horizon.

Sleep Set List:

  1. Dopesmoker
  2. Holy Mountain
  3. Dragonaut
  4. Antarcticus Thawed
  5. Aquarian
  6. From Beyond
  7. Sonic Titan
  8. The Druid
  9. Nain’s Baptism
  10. Cultivator

For more information on Sleep, check out:

www.weedian.com