Concert Review: Opeth at the Palladium in Worcester, MA
September 19, 2011
Reviewed by: Brian Cross
Opeth’s world tour in support of their new record Heritage kicked off at the Palladium in Worcester, MA, on September 19, 2011. Heritage‘s official US release wasn’t until the next day, but that didn’t stop the veteran progressive metal band from playing new and old tracks to a massive audience. Many of the songs on this tour are ones that Opeth has never played live, and since this was the first night of the tour, it was a serious milestone for the Swedish band and their fans.
But first things first. Starting the evening off right was Katatonia, fellow metal purveyors from Sweden. Most of their set was culled from their most recent records, The Great Cold Distance and Night is the New Day. Considering that those are arguably their strongest works, it was a fine choice. Fans hoping for some old-school Katatonia death/doom metal would’ve been disappointed, but if the crowd’s incredibly positive reaction was any indication, any haters were absent. Standout tracks like “Forsaker,” “Leaders,” and “My Twin” reverberated throughout the venue with their unique mix of doom and alternative hard rock. Katatonia’s live show was a tad reliant on prerecorded electronic drum effects, but their energetic performance helped one gloss over such shortcomings.
After a half-hour stage change, the Palladium was full to the brim just in time for Opeth to make their appearance. Heritage represents a bit of a shift for the band; for only the second time in their history, there are no death vocals on the album. As such, the live set for this tour also ditches the extreme growling in favor of clean singing, but fortunately, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt is skilled in both styles. Opening with the twin attack of “The Devil’s Orchard” and “I Feel the Dark,” Heritage tracks dominated the set. Classic songs from the past made the cut, though, so longtime fans wouldn’t be left out.
I mentioned earlier that the Heritage tour features a lot of songs Opeth has never performed live. Aside from the obvious new material like “Nepenthe” and “Slither,” surprises included “Porcelain Heart” off of Watershed; that song was a single, yet Opeth had never performed it on stage. The set also showcased more obscure fare like “The Throat of Winter” and “Patterns in the Ivy II.” Both of those were non-album tracks, but sounded great in a live setting. For those songs and a few others, Åkerfeldt and fellow guitarist Fredrik Åkesson ditched their electric axes in favor of acoustic guitars, sitting in folding chairs and giving the performance a much more intimate feel despite the large size of the Palladium.
The music was broken up by Åkerfeldt’s witty banter as instruments and such were swapped out between songs. He even played a few bars of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” during an acoustic switch, sparking roars of laughter from the audience. Speaking of hilarity, nothing was more amusing (or sad) than watching kids mosh to slow Opeth songs. Most of the moshing was due to the inexplicable presence of hardcore dancers, but it seems like the pit was there just because that’s the only way they knew how to behave at a metal show. Weird.
But I digress; let’s get back to the incredible musicianship that was on display. New keyboardist Joakim Svalberg was more than up to the task of playing the complex arrangements Opeth is known for, and each song was punctuated by some impressive jazz fills courtesy of drummer Martin Axenrot. His solo in the middle of “Porcelain Heart” was brief yet stunning. With Martin Mendez’ expert bass lines grounding the entire thing, Opeth’s performance was nothing short of stellar. Their set concluded with “Hex Omega” and yet another new song off of Heritage, “Folklore,” as an encore.
Despite the eye-searing brightness of people’s cellphones and the annoying punk girl behind me who shrilled through half of Opeth’s set, the Heritage tour was a resounding success on its opening night. It’s not a show to be missed for anyone who calls themselves a progressive rock or metal fan.