OPETH Gig Review
Support: PAIN OF SALVATION
London / O2 Brixton Academy, Sunday 13th November 2011
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Sweden is a country with a very rich musical heritage (no pun intended) so the fact that it is bands from this part of the world that have been predominantly receiving much deserved attention from fans and media alike over the last few years should not come as a great surprise to anyone. One of these bands is Mikael Akerfeldt’s Opeth – a band whose latest opus “Heritage” signalled a departure from the brutal vocals and Metal riffs of the past and seems to suggest the beginning of a much more experimental, progressive-focused direction. Having been a fan of their music since 2001, the year that their magnum opus “Blackwater Park” first saw the light of day, meant that I would not have missed their show for the world. This lead to me dedicating a weekend to seeing the band’s Birmingham show on Saturday and the London show on Sunday, both of which were supported by Pain Of Salvation, who are on tour with them and a band that I personally consider to be the ultimate masters of their craft. Anyhow, having successfully recuperated from the quite impressive Birmingham experience I arrived back in London early afternoon, and after having conducted an interview with Pain Of Salvation’s frontman Daniel Gildenlow, we found ourselves standing outside the venue, forming part of a very long and impressive queue.
Our entrance to the venue was far quicker than originally expected as we were part of the group that was given priority access as a result of having an O2 mobile phone contract, something that I am sure must have really annoyed all those die hard fans that had been standing at the head of the queue for more than two hours. Having spent a small fortune on merchandise, we managed to find a great spot very close to the stage and prepared ourselves for another night of good quality music!
As was the case in Birmingham, the stage of the Brixton Academy was a very welcoming environment to Daniel Gildenlow and his colleagues, with banners being placed in strategic positions and with plenty of free space for them to move around. When the lights first went off and the “Road Salt Theme” intro filled the room, the crowd’s reaction could be described as positive, yet restrained – something that was bound to change throughout the band’s forty minute set. Half of Pain Of Salvation’s set was based on their latest album “Road Salt Two”, starting with the heavy-sounding “Softly She Cries” during which both Daniel and departing guitarist Johan Hallgren performed stage antics, such as jumping from the top of large guitar amps! The chemistry that this band has on stage is second to none and when provided with a decent sound, something that was somewhat lacking during their Birmingham set, the results can be truly rewarding. Gildenlow did his best to attract people’s attention and acquire their participation, both of which paid off when both the classic opus “Ashes” and the groovy anthem “Conditioned” were performed. The band’s ‘softer’ side was represented through the highly emotional “1979” and the cleverly-crafted melodic theme “To The Shoreline”. One thing that I really missed during the band’s set in Birmingham was the lack of any material from “Remedy Lane” so I was really pleased by their decision to incorporate a beautiful rendition of “Fandango” tonight. Knowing that they would soon have to leave the stage, Pain Of Salvation closed their set with the heavy riffed “Linoleum” and the equally impressive “No Way” – both of which helped them to receive a warm round of applause prior to leaving the stage for what is to go down in history as the band’s last London show in the current line up.
It did not take long for the well-trained crew to clear the stage of any Pain Of Salvation related equipment and make all necessary preparations for Opeth’s set, but it was enough to realise that most of the conversations taking place around me focused on one main question – would Mikael Akerfeldt perform any songs with Death Metal vocals? The closer to the band’s set, the more nervous people around me were becoming so the first few notes of “The Devil’s Orchard” came as a relief more than anything else. Just as in the case of Pain Of Salvation, half of Opeth’s set was based on their prog offering “Heritage” so the second song to be performed was the emotional opus “I Feel The Dark”. The band’s sound was immaculate; their performance on stage as solid as ever and Mikael was in high spirits, taking the first opportunity to indulge in his trademark banter with the audience by introducing “Face Of Melinda” – a song that was received pretty warmly by all those who feared that none of the band’s older material would be performed. Next in line was “Porcelain Heart” – a song that incorporated a very basic and somewhat unnecessary drum solo by the otherwise quite capable skinsman Martin Axenrot, but which anyhow won him a warm round of applause. “Heritage” was further represented by “Nepenthe” following which the band indulged in a three track acoustic set which included the single “The Throat Of Winter”, “Credence” and “Closure”. It was at that moment that Mikael made a very emotional dedication to legendary frontman Ronnie James Dio by introducing the Rainbow-sounding “Slither” to the audience – a song that Mikael mentioned that was written to honour the legendary frontman. Further exchanges of niceties between Akerfeldt and fans took place throughout the show, including an attempt at singing along to,…wait for it…George Michael material, while the performance of “A Fair Judgement” while “Hex Omega” also incorporated the beginnings of Whitesnake’s classic opus “Slow An Easy”, following which the band left the stage. Three minutes later Mikael and came back on stage and finished off with a beautiful rendition of “Folklore”, one of the stand-out tracks of the new album, and left the stage having ensured that the vast majority of the crowd showed their appreciation by screaming their lungs out for more.
Tonight’s show was very important for both bands involved. Pain Of Salvation were finally given the opportunity to perform in front of a larger audience than the one that they are accustomed to in the UK whereas for Opeth this was a ‘make or break’ performance in the sense that it would prove whether their decision to change their musical direction would also be a commercially successful one. Was this experience beneficial for both bands? Well judging by people s reactions I believe that the answer is yes! There were quite a few people buying Pain Of Salvation t-shirts at the end of the show and those already sporting Opeth ones also looked pretty pleased. As for me, I believe that what I have experienced was the best gig of the year – not a bad deal at all, don’t you agree?
Pain Of Salvation Set List
Road Salt Theme
Softly She Cries
To The Shoreline
Opeth Set List
The Devil’s Orchard
I Feel the Dark
Face Of Melinda
Porcelain Heart (+Drum Solo)
The Throat Of Winter (acoustic)
A Fair Judgement
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