Opeth – Evolution XX Tour @ Terminal 5, NYC – April 7, 2010

11 08 2010

On the evening of April 7th,  I was a tourist in New York City. Although it was my first time visiting the “Big Apple”, I wasn’t basking in the glow of Times Square or taking in a Broadway play. I wasn’t dining at a fancy restaurant, strolling through Central Park, or doing one of the millions of other things a first time visitor to New York City would be expected to do. Quite the contrary. On the evening of April 7th I was seated on a curb outside a gritty, industrial venue known as Terminal 5, melting in an unseasonably warm 35 degree heat and feeling lost in a sea of Opeth fans. I was one amongst 3000.  Everywhere I turned there was one elegant Opeth logo after another, tattooed on shoulders or plastered across t-shirts, each representing a different era of the band’s exceptional 20 year career. Many in attendance had flown in from other states or even countries (myself and accompanying party included), here to bear witness to what had been dubbed Opeth’s “Evolution XX Tour”.  The second last show on an exclusive six date tour and the first of only two North American stops, the feeling was one of exclusivity and excitement. Not only were we promised a 3 hour set which included many rare/never-been-played songs, but we were going to hear Opeth’s acclaimed album Blackwater Park played live in its entirety. The distance travelled or country of origin wasn’t what mattered tonight. What mattered was that we were all united under one flag; that of the mighty Opeth.

After some pretty horrendous acts of organizational incompetency by the staff at Terminal 5 (such as allowing 3 separate lines to form on both sides of the street and not allowing the first two hundred people to the barricade once doors had opened) we managed to settle into a decent spot at the side of the stage. The venue was sold out, a packed house chattering and writhing with restless anticipation. At 8 o’clock sharp the house lights went down and the opening notes of “The Leper Affinity” erupted through the speakers. The wait was finally over.

Seamlessly flowing from one Blackwater Park classic to another, the band played with the kind of precise tightness that fans have come to expect from a live Opeth show. To preserve the album’s integrity, the usually talkative vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt resisted the urge to banter with the audience. Given his reputation for being somewhat of a comedian on stage the silence was almost odd, but I didn’t need to hear him talk to understand how he must be feeling. Despite having numerous lineup changes and almost leaving it all behind during the recording of Ghost Reveries, tonight was a testament to the power of hard work, perseverance and integrity in a crumbling industry. Being the group’s founding member, it was clear that this was a time for celebration and Mikael was practically glowing with pride. The entire band emitted the aura of larger-than-life Rock Gods, all swaying and headbanging, guitar stances present and accounted for. They didn’t just play the music, the really felt it, and the heavy to soft dynamics of songs like “Bleak” and “Dirge For November” worked perfectly to their advantage. The crowd sang every note, moshing when appropriate and clapping even when it wasn’t.  Every wave of energy sent forth by the band was reciprocated by the audience until the beautiful, final notes of the album’s title track had faded in the speakers. The band left the stage for a quick break, leaving just enough time for some last-minute speculation on what would be played next.  “Face of Melinda”, “Master’s Apprentices” and the twenty minute epic “Black Rose Immortal” were at the top of my personal song wish list, but I had been careful to avoid any set list leaks in order to preserve the element of surprise. Blackwater Park was like the stocking stuffer – fun yet expected, and I was eager to see what Opeth had left for us under the tree.

When the band finally re-appeared on stage, they did so to ecstatic applause. “We are Opeth from Stockholm, Sweden” came Mikael’s customary greeting. It was clear that whatever banter was lacking in the first set would be made up for in the second.  Starting with 1995’s Orchid and working their way up in chronological order, we were treated to a recap of Opeth’s complete history by Akerfeldt himself. Like a metal version of VH1’s Storytellers, each little tidbit was followed by a song from that album.  The complete set list looked like this: 

Forest Of October (Orchid, 1995)
Advent (Morningrise, 1996)
April Ethereal (My Arms, Your Hearse, 1998)
The Moor (Still Life, 1999)
Wreath (Deliverance, 2002)
Hope Leaves (Damnation, 2002)
Harlequin Forest (Ghost Reveries, 2005)
The Lotus Eater (Watershed, 2008) 

 Although none of the songs on my wish list made an appearance, I couldn’t complain. The set list was varied, the playing impeccable. Highlights included “Hope Leaves”, “Advent”  and “Harlequin Forest”, the last of which I found to be especially impressive live. These were all songs that I had heard a hundred times on album but had never had the pleasure of experiencing live. I suppose that was the point.

These six little shows in dingy clubs around the world weren’t some opportunistic promotional tool put together by a label rep, and they were more than just an outlet for the band to celebrate their two decades of existence. This was about giving back to the fans who, without even realizing it, had become an integral part in contributing to Opeth’s success. This tour was about building memories between a band and their fans, about creating an experience. It provided an evening to reminisce over with friends and gave us a story to share. We can now recount the time we travelled X number of kilometers just to “be there”. It was an event as much for the fans as it was for the band and it was a success.

So here’s to you Opeth, and here’s to your impressive career. No matter what the future has in store we’ll always have New York.

Opethhttp://www.myspace.com/opeth

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