Opeth in concert? Yes, please! The Swedes are in the midst of a US tour promoting “Heritage,” and were kind enough to play in San Diego; most bands like to play two shows in Los Angeles instead. In reality, it’s just disrespect. We’re not talking about some back country hick town that can’t fill a venue — San Diego is the 8th largest city in the US! But I digress. I’ve got an old buddy who I haven’t seen in years, I’ve got my tickets… I’m feeling a concert diary coming on!
6:32pm – Leaving the house. Doors opened two minutes ago, and Katatonia will start playing in an hour. We’re 50 miles from the venue. I’m thinking “fashionably late.”
6:55 – Me and my buddy just wrapped up a discussion on what we we’ve been listening to recently as we take back roads to avoid the mess that is the I-5 freeway. Lots of prog and Opeth for me, technical and brutal death metal for him.
7:15 – Talking about old times and the crazy, slightly messed up people we grew up with. Didn’t we all? Off to the right, I can see Sea World, which is relevant because even penguins are Opeth fans.
7:37 – We finally arrived, parked, and got in the venue. I missed the first one and a half Katatonia songs, but, oh well — I’ve MAYBE heard one song from them before tonight, so I wouldn’t have recognized ’em anyway.
8:30ish – Katatonia set = finished. My one sentence review? The set seemed to be well performed and the energy was good, but the bass guitar and bass drum was loud enough to shake my jeans and wash out most keyboards and rhythm guitar, a bad sign for the house mixer’s job security.
8:50 – After a few minutes of debate with his buddies, some stoner guy right in front of us decides to risk being thrown out to spark up. I’m wondering if the smell of marijuana will mix well with Opeth’s new 70’s inspired prog sound? What am I saying! Yes it will.
9:00 – The guys come on stage and immediately fire off “The Devil’s Orchard” followed immediately by another Heritage track. I have a confession to make: I’m not really familiar with the stuff on Heritage. Look, I don’t have any money and I haven’t been able to buy the album yet — my few listens came when they put the album on NPR for free listening
9:15 – Face of Melinda. I just peed a little.
9:24 – Akerfeldt calls out some guy in the front row for texting. Who texts at a concert, anyways? You should be paying attention to Mikael’s smart and funny riffing between songs.
9:25 – Porcelain Heart. There’s a good chance that the entire set will come sans harsh vocals. And I am completely fine with this.
9:28 – Axenrot works a drum solo into the middle of Porcelain Heart, which actually works pretty well and doesn’t distract too much from the rest of the song. The solo reminds me a little of John Bonham at first, but quickly evolves into Axe’s own signature style.
9:36 – Acoustic guitars are brought onstage and Akerfeldt and Akesson assume the seated, “let’s make this show personal and hip” position. The crowd’s not happy. A few people at the bar are screaming “play some f***ing metal!” and a few kids in the crowd are yelling “Grandpa’s guitars!” (Metalocalypse reference).
9:45 – The Throat of Winter. The performance of this song was absolutely incredible. New keyboardist Joakim Svalberg adds in the necessary Latin percussion and even busts out a really nice “Guitar Fuzz” tone that you might hear off an ARP Pro Soloist. Speaking of keyboards:
The keyboard setup at this show was enough to make the guy in front of me feel violated. Hey, it was a crowded venue. Two, yes TWO Mellotrons (the new ones that have high quality .WAV samples of the Mellotron tones), and an analog synth sitting off to the side (could be a new Moog, but I couldn’t be sure). Sitting on top of the Trons were a Nord Electro 3 and one of the new Hammond “keyboard” organs (which sounded really, really good). A murderer’s row of awesome keyboards!
9:53 – Patterns in the Ivy II. Back-to-back unreleased tracks. This set list just got obscure.
9:59 – Closure. This will probably be the last song they play with the acoustics out, which is probably good because the drunkards in the back are getting restless. Actually, screw them. I like the set.
10:09 – A Fair Judgement. And… the guy in front of me was just violated. The song ends with the guys taking the final riff to dangerously slow levels, like 35-40 bpm. Very cool and chuggy. I approve.
10:22 – Mikael announces the last song by flipping off the crowd, then dives into Hex Omega. Another great performance, and it seems like a tough song to pull off live.
10:32 – They only make us wait for a few minutes before coming back for the encore. Mikael doesn’t start playing until the crowd agrees to headband with no music, which we do like a bunch of puppets. The encore consists of Heritage stuff that I don’t recognize, probably the bonus tracks. Weak ending, at least for me.
Despite the weak ending, the show was incredibly impressive. The sound levels were just right and the performance was flawless. The unsung hero of the night? Svalberg, who stepped into Per Wiberg’s enormous shoes and didn’t miss a beat. He even has a great singing voice, and backed up Akerfeldt fairly flawlessly throughout the night. All in all, a recommended tour that everyone should try and see if you get a chance. They’re still touring, so get to it!