For a band like Opeth, the Heineken Music Hall is a pretty big venue. With its 5,000+ capacity, it seemed like more than what Opeth needed. By this I don’t mean to say that they don’t deserve a big venue, on the contrary; it’s just that I never expected them to have the ability to pull such a big audience. Hell, they were themselves skeptical about whether they’d be able to do it.
Well, I’m happy to report that all of our doubts were unfounded. Even though the venue was not sold out, it was still packed; so much so that Mikael, during one of his many monologues, mentioned how surprised he was about this.
Even though I arrived a couple of hours before the show, since I had to do my interview with Fredrik, there was already a line of people waiting to enter. Plenty of people sporting different types of Opeth-related pieces of clothing, and even tattoos, were eagerly awaiting the beginning of the show. Opeth do that. They’re one of those bands with which people truly develop a deep emotional connection (for better or worse) and you can really see the devotion in their behavior.
After I finished my interview, I immediately went into the pit to photograph Alcest. Even though I’m not too familiar with their discography, there is huge a buzz surrounding them, with plenty of metalhead singing their praises. Although their style is different from that of Opeth, their ambient vibe, coupled with the proficiency of the performers, were a nice surprise. Sure, it isn’t the kind of music you’ll headbang to (at least not too much) but it’s definitely enjoyable.
Photographing Alcest was a huge pain in the ass. The stage was really high and the lights were aimed directly at the pit, so you got a lot of lens flare, overexposed photos and, in general, just images of a much inferior quality that you’d get in a better position. I’m fairly sure I would have done a better work just shooting from the audience. Whenever I shoot and I can’t really get the shot I’m looking for I usually fill with self doubt and wonder “Is it me? Do I suck this much?!”, so I was happy to see that the other photographers were also pissed about it, and complained about having gotten shitty photos too. What can I say? Misery loves company.
Opeth‘s show was very good. Although they didn’t go through all the songs I would have liked to hear (“The Drapery Falls” was, sadly, missing from the setlist) they made sure to cover tracks from all of their discography, and not just prioritize their more recent progressive stuff. For many fans (myself included) it’s annoying to go to a show and see the band only playing cuts from their latest records; this is especially annoying when they have some “classics” that the fans simply need to hear. This happened to me when I saw Manowar, who were then touring the Gods of War album, and they only played their latest record, not even treating the fans to an encore of hits like “Hail and Kill”. Opeth avoided this, and delivered a well-balanced set that kept the energy up, playing some of the death metal tunes that many wanted to hear, and still showcased the progressive goodness they’ve come to be known for.
One of the great things about Opeth is that Mikael Åkerfeldt does not take himself seriously, and is always joking with the audience and the rest of the band. He is also very relaxed in his demeanor, and even takes it easy when things don’t go according to plan. So, for example, when his guitar kept failing, for reasons that even puzzled his guitar tech (Katatonia‘s former guitar player Per “Sodomizer” Eriksson) he just joked about it and waited until they managed to fix everything. Compare this with what Trent Reznor would have done in that case.
All and all, a pretty good show, despite the occasional technical fuckups, and the fact that photographing it was a massive pain in the ass (for both Opeth and Alcest, so I really apologize for the lack of suitable images). Even if you’re not too fond of their progressive material Opeth are really a band that you want to see live. They know what their fans want, and they’re all too happy to comply.