Sound: Its hard to believe that Opeth have been around for such a long time now. Blackwater Park sounds as fresh as it does today as it was 9 years ago. And at the Royal albert hall, of all places! Usually reserved for operas and 'BBC: The Proms', its hard to imagine a band with such credentials as even being allowed to play their music in one of the most sophisticated places in the world. Never-the-less, its a fitting place.
The entire arena was completely full, every chair and standing position filled with the mass of very out-of-place metalheads. The lights dimmed at just about 7:40 and the ever recognizable shape of Mikael Akerfeldts hair swings from the side. The piano chord intro left no one guessing as to what the opening song was: The Leper Affinity. As this was the 20th anniversary, the band had chosen to play Blackwater Park in its entirety, and it had never sounded better. Every song was played as tight as a drum. Improvised fills and frills from the muscians were few, but the presence they have as a band is enough to just make you forget that.
Everything the band did remained as close as possible to the album sound, although Mikael used a phaser-type effect for quite a lot of his solo-ing work. The crowd knew the lyrics to every song, every riff, every break, every clean section and every moment of every song and it had never sounded better than in full chorus. It was truly a night to remember. // 10
Perfomance: Opeth's music is diverse, complex and energetic. Despite this, the band don't really need to give a wild performance like most metal bands. They stay their ground and play their work, Frederik (Akesson) and Martin (Mendez) being the only two who really headbang while Mikael played his guitar like a Steve Vai impressionist. Theres no denying its all about the music though: Opeth could have dressed in corpsepaint and it still wouldn't have added or detracted from the show. However, one very noticable feature was the background display that projected the Opeth 'O' symbol and lots of flashy effects (they became increasingly violent the heavier the songs became).
The songs that were played were:
01. The Leper Affinity
04. The Drapery Falls
05. Dirge For November
06. The Funeral Portrait
07. Patterns In the Ivy
08. Blackwater Park
Which, after a 20 minute intermission while the band rested, were followed by one song from every studio album up till now:
(What I think was) Under the Weeping Moon
April Ethereal (always a favourite)
The Moor (went down particularly well)
This skipped to the Deliverence song, Wreath
Hope Leaves (which included an improvised outro)
Harlequin Forest (Everyones favourite song)
And they finished with a very well recieved The Lotus Eater.
During the first half of the show, when the band were playing the Blackwater Park album, there was no real interaction between the band and the audience, apart from Mikael 'Shhh-ing' the microphone as he tried to tune his signature guitar. But his true frontman style appeared after playing the first song of the second half. Fans of Opeth know Mikael is generally likes to pull one liner jokes during breaks between songs in good humour and of course, he didn't fail to perform. One of the favourites in the crowd was when Mikael 'introduced' Per Wiberg (keyboards) to the crowd and generally joking about his curled moustache and 'drunk' appearance and also generally joking the other band members too.
The performance wasn't without incident though. At least twice in the later half, Mikaels guitar cut out while playing one of the longer songs, although he continued his growling while hap-hazardly trying to plug his replacement in. The same happened again to Frederiks (guitar) although it was in a much more inconvenient place: Right before the clean solo in The Lotus Eater during the more silent places, his guitar cut out and his replacement wouldn't work either, much to the amusement of the audience and the band (Axe (drums) still managed to keep the rhythm going with hi-hat hits for a good 2 minutes before Frederik could play again). Also, a girl had fainted right after a song had finished, with Mikael making a spirited but possibly inappropriate 'She fainted because.. I am here' remark.
Still, all faults aside, it was still a brilliant show, even if Opeth tightened the songs like a screw and there were no really impressive special effects (like flame jets). // 8
Overall Impression: Opeth are one truly amazing band. Its still hard to believe that Mikael Akerfeldt made the first record at the age of 21 and still managing to keep the band more and more diverse, exciting and genuinely good over the years.
As an arena, The RAH is just incomparable. Its mad enough that a band like Opeth (which Mikael Akerfeldt made a point of during the show: 'We're going to bring death growls, blast beats and lots of evilness') are playing the show there, although it seems fitting seeing as it is their 20th anniversary this year. This made the tickets valuable. Even though the tour was announced a few good months ago and the tickets going quickly, by the time I'd bought them, they were in the region of 130 each just for a standing spot. Still, a show of such importance is worth all the money you pay.
Overall, I was blown away. To listen to Opeth is to not really bang your head all the time, its more the type of music you just stand and listen to, as most of the standing audience did. Although I've only recently started going to major concerts/gigs, I can say for sure that this will take some beating. Truly a show worthy of being historical. // 9