As a venue, the Academy is great for bounce-along anthems, massive riffs, sweaty aggression; Opeth are simply not about any of these things, or rather musically, they don't sustain this physical element of rock concerts for any significant period of time. Tonight this place is more akin to a storage unit. Afterwards, a friend says, “I'd rather listen to 'em in me room.” It's a valid point. That's not to say the place is devoid of atmosphere: the reception between most tracks is very enthusiastic; it's just that much of the subtlety is lost in this environment of neat black squares, straight lines and cold, hard floor space. The moments of true communion between band and audience come courtesy of Mikael Akerfeldt's droll between-song banter, revolving around the relative merits of the Kiss back catalogue.
'The Devil's Orchard' is a fine starter, carrying all the dry, knotty intrigue which I think makes new album 'Heritage' such an absorbing listen. Understandably, the response is a little more reserved for the rest of the relatively unfamiliar new stuff, and it's a haunting rendition of 'Face of Melinda' that ramps up the exaltation.
Just four songs in, 'Porcelain Heart', for reasons beyond me, breaks down into a tiresome drum solo which is fastidiously observed by the rest of the band. So if it's not a chance for anyone to take a breather, I fail to see what the point is. You're in Opeth – we know you're half decent with the sticks. That said, the rest of the track sounds suitably rich and intense. The acoustic part of the set includes 'The Throat of Winter', which would be stunning but for the narcissistic transgressions of a significant minority. I fail to understand why anyone would pay to see a gig and then talk all the way through it about their annoying life. But jabber on they do, filling every available moment of musical calm with babble, or worse still whooping and yelling some inane platitude, seemingly in a desperate attempt to validate their existence in a crowd. Only 'Slither' manages to drown them out, thanks to its more direct Deep Purple/Rainbow charge.
Having seemingly shed the bulk of their death metal skin, I really think that an Opeth gig is better suited to a more refined, civil theatre (check their triumphant performance at the Royal Albert Hall) now that they're way too big for 'whites of their eyes' venues. That's not a sentence I ever expected to type before I was sixty, but their metamorphosis away from something simply 'heavy' necessitates a level of respectful participation. So, although I have very few quibbles with the performance of the band themselves, as an experience, it's something of a frustrating evening.
Photo courtesy of the all-conquering Alex Rogahn
Posted: Sun 13 November 2011