Opeth in Concert: There Is Nothing Better


As some of you might know, Opeth are quite possibly my favorite band in the entire world. Their eclectic blend of death metal, acoustic ballads and jazz-styled breaks make them far beyond a death metal band. Their most recent album, Heritage, is effectively an homage to 70’s prog rock, with no death growls at all, and a focus on contrast and musical sensitivity. Their seventh album, Damnation, is entirely soft and jazz-like, without death growls and without distorted guitars.

The point is, they are technically, musically and compositionally one of the most accomplished bands in the world, and their 20-year, 11-album career has given them a musical prowess unmatched by almost any other band. They are one of those bands that are actually better live than they are on record, and the chance to see them live was an opportunity I simply could not pass up.

So I didn’t.

Rock on!


IMG_0042I was lucky enough to see them in 2003, right after the release of Deliverance, which contains some of the most rhythmically complex music they’ve ever written, and their performance of the title track was astonishing. I heard it again this time, and if anything they were even better.

Their opening band, Katatonia, were musically accomplished and a good compliment for Opeth, but sadly their singer was not on form, and was out of tune far too often (by contrast, Mikael Åklerfeldt was spot on every time, despite being sick and having a sore throat). I’ll skip them therefore, other than to say that they played a number of my favorite songs, including Day And Then The Shade and Deliberation.

Then it was Opeth’s turn. They opened with the first song from the Ghost Reveries album, Ghost Of Perdition, which was simply perfect. This was their first album after the soft Damnation, and it opens with four slow, gloomy, acoustic chords, and the suspense on the first listen is wonderful, because you don’t know what kind of song it’s going to be…until the guitars blast in, and we’re off on a rampant, heavy journey.

The addition of a keyboard player to the live band is now invaluable, since the majority of their newer stuff relies heavily on rock organs, piano and synths. This meant that the outro of Deliverance was simply beautiful, with the dizzying guitar rhythms and the great, faded-in piano chords:



They ended up cutting the set slightly short because of Åkerfeldt’s illness, which meant they missed out on The Leper Affinity, one of my all-time favorite songs. I suppose I can’t complain, though – I did see them perform it ten years ago, and I have to give immense credit to him; a lot of singers/musicians would call out sick if they came down with a cold; Opeth have the kind of tenacity and determination that means they’re dedicated to their audience, every single time.

Oh, and there was some amusing banter regarding his moustache.




What’s better than seeing Alice Cooper?

Seeing Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden live in concert!

Iron Maiden, with very special guest Alice Cooper, last night at the Prudential Center in Newark. There are no words to describe the awesomeness of this (let me try):

Totally. Freaking. Insanely. Utterly. Brilliantly. Stupendously. Crazy. Awesomely. Awesome.

That’s maybe 10% there.

I’m a little deafer than I was before – perfect. I’m a little blinder than I was before – just how it should be. I’m not drunk, which is not quite how it should be, but at $9 a bottle it wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t mosh, which really is the thing I’m most disappointed in myself for, but I’m feeling a little too old for that.

Alice Cooper was incredible. The guy is sixty-four years old, and he commanded that stage like he was twenty. Every song – all the classics – were perfect, and despite the venue’s lousy acoustics, they sounded great. His lead guitarist was a girl, which was great to see, and his antics were fun – though a little on the tame side, perhaps. They did decapitate him at one point, but I was disappointed that there were no great spouts of blood. Perhaps it’s more realistic that way. His costume changes were great – I don’t know how he went through so many so fast, but from his black leather riding gear to a mad scientist to crazy Nazi guy, he was a veritable chameleon. His legendary charisma really shone through, despite little interaction with the crowd; he whipped their photographer with his riding crop, and when that didn’t work, ran him through with a pirate sword. Lots of fun.

Forty minutes to set up for Iron Maiden. What a wait. I think they might have had some technical problems, because the P.A. started playing UFO at one point, which really wasn’t the right thing to do. When they did blast on though…yes! Yes! Yes!

Our seats were near the front and very high up, so sadly our visibility was not the best. Poor Nicko McBrain, he was so hidden behind stage props that the most I could see was the occasional crash of his cymbals! Steve Harris, pummeling away on his bass – now that was a real pleasure. He looked so damn chuffed, like it was their first gig, and their thousandth. He’s proud of his band, you can tell. Janick, Dave and Adrian were at their finest, and I’ve not seen a band so in tune with each other in a long time. And Bruce…Bruce Dickinson was a madman, racing from one end of the stage to the other, screaming at the top of his rather powerful lungs, and inciting the moshing crowd to sing for him (which must have saved on his throat). It’s a shame he cut his hair short, but he is an airline pilot, and I must say I’ve never seen a metalhead airline pilot (there must be one somewhere).

Having said all of that…not all was perfect. Iron Maiden suffered from some pretty bad mixing, and it was difficult to make out what Bruce was singing. The guitars had some very bad distortion (not the good kind) in the high end, and once again were difficult to make out. Iron Maiden are a melodic band, and the melodies just weren’t making themselves heard. I could tell they were playing perfectly, but the sound just simply wasn’t good.

Other things – the gay couple next to us were exceptionally polite, but the bunch of nutters beside them were a pain; they were constantly shoving past us to relieve themselves of the copious amounts of beer they were consuming, and more than once crushed our toes. Some shithead also decided it would be completely appropriate to start smoking, which is not only rude but also illegal. Luckily, security sorted his ass out.

So what do I think? I feel let down by the sound, which isn’t the band’s fault. I feel incredibly satisfied that I saw them, though; I can safely go to my grave now, able to say:

I saw Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper live, and I can safely go to my grave now!