LIVE: OPETH – SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, 6 Feb, 2017
Monday, 6 February, 2017
Review & Photography by Stuart McKay
Something very peculiar happened tonight at Sydney Opera House. The venue was packed to capacity with an army of metalheads, clad in black shirts, here to see a progressive melodic death metal band from Sweden. When you say it out loud it almost sounds like a piss take but when you realise that the band in question is Opeth, it all starts to make sense.
Tonight’s special show dubbed “An Evening of Sorcery, Damnation and Deliverance” was the last in a series of only three concerts around the world (New York and London respectively) and fans were champing at the bit to be immersed in the beautifully brutal sounds of these musical alchemists.
The first half of the show (Sorcery) was dedicated to covering as much ground from their back catalogue as possible and they signalled in their presence with the title track off of their latest album ‘Sorceress’ before launching steadfastly into the gnarly guttural growls of ‘Ghost of Perdition’ Thus, death metal had arrived at the Opera House and it was righteous as hell. Front man Mikael Åkerfeldt even quipped afterwards with “this place wasn’t meant for growls.” The majority of people outside of the metal circle would certainly agree with him but tonight it was all about the growls juxtaposed with the beautiful melodies, the outstanding musicianship and believe it or not, the comedy. Åkerfeldt’s dry witty interactions between songs is legendary and tonight he brought the whole audience together as he battled hecklers facetiously shouting out requests to “play some Smash Mouth” or “Khe Sanh” which he took all with a pinch of salt: “It’s funny, you play a nice place like this and suddenly everyone gets Tourettes” was the rejoinder that immediately shut the hecklers down as the audience acquiesced with laughter.
With a surprisingly brief intermission that caught a few fans out, the band were back onstage to begin the second half of tonight’s show (Damnation and Deliverance).
With the double LP reissue of these albums being the main reason behind these special shows Åkerfeldt also added somewhat spuriously “…we got told to by someone who thought it’d be cool to do”
Kicking off with “Windowpane” and followed promptly by ‘Death Whispered a Lullaby’ it’s songs like these that put Opeth in a league of their own. As the beautiful arpeggiated chord progressions and haunting melodies filled every crevice of this architectural masterpiece, every hair on the back of your neck couldn’t help but stand on end. The beauty would soon make way for the brutal in the shape of ‘Master’s Apprentices’ – with it’s chugging riff and bowel rumbling vocals it was the perfect choice to usher in their last instalment of the night, songs from Damnation’s angrier and scarier brother, Deliverance. Fans were treated to an extremely rare inclusion of ‘By the Pain I See in Others’ – a song “we’ve only played four times live and will never play again after tonight”
Two hours and 30 minutes later it was almost time for the night to draw to a close – “you guys have work in the morning and we have to do what all famous rock bands do, have some beers and do lots of drugs” but not before one last hurrah in the shape of the infamous set closer ‘Deliverance’ which afforded fans one last hypnotic journey into the melodic heaviness and devastating beauty of a band that has and will always be an absolute force of nature in the music world.
As far as unique shows go this one will most likely go down in the annals of every Opeth fan in the attendance tonight as one of their greatest and in the unlikely event of another death metal band playing this iconic venue, will be the only one of its kind.
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