Opeth live in Melbourne, 25 November 2009

26 Nov

It’s almost summer in Melbourne town. The city’s just getting over a premature heatwave. After a mercifully cool weekend, it’s now Wednesday. What to do?

Go see a death metal band live. Of course? Of course!

Over 1,000 punters packed into The Palace on Bourke St to see the third and final gig of Opeth’s quick-fire 2009 Australian tour that had previously hit Brisbane on Sunday and Sydney on Monday. One of Sweden’s finest musical exports, Opeth have a fondness for Australia and make a point of touring here often; other bands, take notes. Their current tour, promoting 2008’s stylistically diverse and rather satisfying Watershed album, already hit these Antipodean shores for a somewhat more extensive tour in September 2008, and the Melbourne audience was glad to have them back.

I arrived at the Palace not long before the opener, Contrive, was due to begin at 9pm. On reflection, I should have made a point of arriving sooner; going to a few club gigs where nobody bothers turning up for the opener had lulled me into a false sense of security that I could still snag a nice spot almost an hour after doors opened. I had never been upstairs at the Palace before, so I scouted out the balcony and managed to get a spot on the rail; unfortunately, it was a spot where the balcony slightly curved back in on itself. I could see the middle and right of stage, but the left? Not so much. Ah well.

I was wholly unfamiliar with Contrive’s music before this gig. They played with passion before their hometown audience, but I was not particularly taken. Perhaps it was just the mixing that obliterated nuances. The vocalist sure has a booming death growl, and I had to wonder if he owed a bit of a debt to the intensity of hardcore vocals. In any case, the crowd received Contrive politely and attentatively – certainly far better than the reception given to last year’s opener, Virgin Black (who I thought were much better, out-of-time headbanging aside).

Opeth, of course, were something else entirely. Capable of running the gamut from crunching death metal riffs to sombre and mellow introspection, their style has all the nuance and depth I seek from progressive death metal. Frontman Mikael Akerfeldt growls with coherence and sings cleanly with beauty, plays guitar rather well, and is a compelling and charismatic performer besides. His banter with the crowd is part of the attraction of an Opeth gig, and in Melbourne, he tested our knowledge about Sweden, played his “guess the song” game (both of which were Whitesnake tracks), and held out his guitar for the entire front row to touch. “Now it has been blessed,” he remarked, “… and has swine flu.” When he informed the audience that the band were flying home to Sweden the next day, a chorus of boos broke out along with an emphatic chant exhorting Opeth to stay here longer.

From the altitude of the balcony, it was somewhat amusing to watch the headbanging and moshing going on down below. I was caught up in that last time, and although I’m one for personal space, there is something about metal gigs – something you feel more strongly on the floor – that is quite unlike other shows. Melbourne crowds at other shows sometimes feel a bit too reserved; they can be very attentive and into the music, but you would hardly know it by the lack of physical activity. This hesitance is thrown to the wind at an Opeth gig, and it feels like a far more primal, communal, intense celebration of music. I certainly partook, even if some of my companions on the balcony rail seemed happy to remain still. Rarely have I headbanged like I headbanged during Harlequin Forest – one of my favourite Opeth songs, played for the first time in Melbourne.

So, let’s get to the point. What did they play? The opener, Windowpane, from the band’s acoustic, non-metal outing, Damnation, was surprisingly effective, creating an evocative atmosphere from the outset. As soon as the crushing riff of Ghost Of Perdition, the second song, began, the audience went wild and did not let up. For me, the highlight of roughly two hours of music was the late main set run of April Ethereal, Face Of Melinda, and Harlequin Forest. Intense, darkly beautiful, compelling – and I was particularly thrilled to hear Face Of Melinda, a song I had not yet heard Opeth play from my favourite album of theirs, Still Life.

The full setlist was:

1. Windowpane
2. Ghost Of Perdition
3. The Lotus Eater
4. The Leper Affinity
5. Hessian Peel
6. April Ethereal
7. Face Of Melinda
8. Harlequin Forest
9. Hex Omega

10. Band intro / Fredrik Akesson’s guitar solo / Mikael Akerfeldt’s “guess the song” game
11. Deliverance

I would like to point out that although this show was part of the same tour as that in September 2008, and although both shows ran for two hours, the band repeated just two songs – The Lotus Eater and Deliverance. I think I preferred last year’s setlist (Master’s Apprentices? Serenity Painted Death? Bleak? The Night And The Silent Water? Classic Opeth), but that should not take away from the quality of this year’s gig.

Below is a sample of Opeth live. Unfortunately, it’s not from Melbourne, but it is a recent performance of Harlequin Forest in Poland. The video is split into two parts:

One Response to “Opeth live in Melbourne, 25 November 2009”


  1. Catching up on Concert Reviews: Boom Crash Opera live in Melbourne, 3 December 2009 « An Ocean of Noise - 10/01/2010

    […] by Axver Since I reviewed Opeth back in November, I’ve been to four more concerts. Do you think I’ve taken the time to […]

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