Opeth Bring Death Metal To…The Opera House?!

 

Sydney Opera House, 06/02/17

Photos by Britt Andrews

It’s been stinking hot in Sydney the past few weeks. Easily 35 degrees everyday. So, naturally I wanted to wear shorts to this Opeth gig.

Hang on a minute, I thought. It’s at the Opera House. That’s a classy place, y’know, with class and that. I can’t wear shorts and thongs there! So I looked it up. I literally looked it up:

“In general there is no specific Dress Code for events at the Opera House, however shoes must be worn at all times.  Some patrons like to dress up and make a special night of their Opera House experience, whilst others choose to dress casually for comfort. ”

Fast forward to me closing in on the box office. Around the corner comes none other than a bloke with a bouncer’s body, lazy mohawk (same hair arrangement, but no gel), oversized black Slipknot shirt, three-quarter pants and black sneakers.

Guess I shouldn’t have worried about the dress code after all!

A bloke wearing a Slipknot shirt to the Opera House wasn’t the only clash of low and high culture, because as you may have gathered already Opeth – death-growling, heavy metal, Swedish Opeth – were playing at the frickin’ Opera House man.

From a few moments ago at the Opera House.

Posted by Opeth on Monday, 6 February 2017

 

The five-piece (which really is a one man + four-piece) came out right on time. They opened with the lead single from the album of the same name, Sorceress, and then gave up the pretence that they aren’t a metal band by launching straight into ‘Ghost of Perdition’. “I think that’s the first time there’s been death metal growls here [in the Sydney Opera House]”, singer and star man Mikael Akerfeldt quipped after ending the ten-minute-long song.

Obviously, the Opera House is a strange place for a metal gig. But that seems to be Opeth’s thing. They’re increasingly playing at classy venues, even filming a show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It does go hand-in-hand with the band’s evolution into some sort of folk, progressive-rock band, which is probably as high-culture as rock music’s ever going to get.

Unlike the Puscifer show I saw a few weeks ago, which was another rock gig in a high culture venue, this Opeth show didn’t always gel. The folk, progressive bits of Opeth did work – in that way, the band seemed like one of those super hipster bands with enough sheep’s clothing to be invited to something like the Festival of Dangerous Ideas or Vivid (as Deafheaven were) – but the death metal bits felt out of kilter.

One part of that was the sound. The guitars sounded muted, but that might have been because pushing or distorting them any further would have ruined the clean and crisp sound needed to play Opeth’s more recent prog rock stylings, like all those songs of Damnation, rather than, say, the pure chugga of an album like Deliverance.

(The classy venue approach also resulted in the strange and hilarious effect of forcing metalheads to sit down. A few enterprising ones left their seats to headbang in the aisles – standing in between the front row and the stage would have got in the way of lots of eyeballs – while another bloke, a few seats away from me, was furiously drumming along to the songs in his seat, that being his way of dealing with his headbanger dysphoria.)

The view and experience of people sitting still and watching didn’t seem to bother Opeth. They were still rocking out, but surely that’s strange for an artist, to create music and not have people rock out to it. Maybe…Akerfeldt has just gone straight ego to playing in classy venues and forcing people to sit down to listen to his brilliance. Maybe?

The breadth of Akerfeldt’s creative genius was pretty much the theme of the setlist, with every album getting at least one entry (so ‘Ghost of Perdition’ was played from Ghost Reveries, ‘Demon of the Fall’ from My Arms Your Hearse). The setlist did jump around a bit, which was a bit strange considering how easy it would be for Opeth to go soft to loud (or the other way around), which is how they go about their music anyway.

Absences from the Damnation and Deliverance records were conspicuous, however. After the shortest ever interval of two (2) minutes – I mean, I did very well to run down to the loo and back in time – Akerfeldt and co., came out to play Windowpane to a half-empty theatre (“everyone seems to have fucked off”, the singer said afterwards). He then explained that, for the encore/second act of the show, they were going to play songs off those records, including a few half-remembered and rarely played cuts.

Those songs – ‘Death Whispered A Lullaby’, ‘Master’s Apprentices’ (named after the Australian band, Akerfeldt said) and ‘By the Pain I See in Others’ – were very, very ok. But it was all good in the end, after the Opeth closed with ‘Deliverance’ (“you can stop being lazy and stand now”).

That song, and the vibe of the song, was the glue that held this gig together. Akerfeldt loves his progressive rock, and his classy venues, but do his fans? Interesting question.

Check out our full gig recording of Opeth performing at the Enmore Theatre here.

About the photographer, Britt Andrews

I got started because I love live music and I love taking photos, so one day I went, “Maybe I should combine them.” I snuck my camera into Soundwave, hidden under a bag of pistachio nuts (which came in handy when Slipknot had to stop their set because the barrier broke), and I shot from

Learn more about Britt Andrews

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