It’s not very often anymore that I am willing to go out to a mid-week show, but when you get the chance to see one of your favourite bands play in a beautiful, historic concert hall sometimes you have to take the plunge. That was me this past Wednesday night, when Opeth made their debut visit to Toronto’s historic Massey Hall. Touring in support of their brand new, excellent Sorceress album, the venerable Swedes were booked into the Shuter Street concert hall by Inertia Entertainment (thanks, Noel!) for what promised to be an exceptional night of music.
And it was.
Opening this evening’s show was Texas retro dudes The Sword. I really don’t have much to say about them, because I wasn’t in my seat for most of their set. It’s not that I don’t like The Sword, it’s more that I just didn’t have any interest in seeing them. I have heard them on a few occasions, I have friends that really dig their sound, but, on this evening, I was there only to see Opeth and didn’t want to see anyone else. As it turns out, I did show up a bit earlier than I expected to my seat and caught the last song in their set. It was decent, passable retro rock, but nothing memorable. I did however take this wonderful photo of them with my phone, bathed in blue light.
It was a very short break before the headliners appeared. Commencing the show as a trio of keys, bass and drums, they kicked right into the instrumental intro of the new album before the guitarists appeared and went full force into the title track from their new Sorceress album. Razor sharp right from the first note, Opeth were simply on fire this evening, stomping their way through an eleven song set plus encore.
One of my favourite parts of any Opeth live sets is the in-between song banter by Mikael Akerfeldt. He has a very dry, slightly sarcastic sense of humour – the kind of guy that it would be a blast to get messed up with – and he didn’t disappoint this evening. Obviously thrilled to be playing a hall as prestigious as Massey Hall, he was quick to point out that KISS had played the same stage in 1975 and treated us to the opening licks of “Cold Gin” before trying to convince us that drummer Martin Axenrot had shat his own pants. He continued on the same path for most of the night, making me enjoy myself just as much in between songs as I did during the tunes themselves.
The setlist was focused heaviest on the new album, but there were a few nice surprises tucked into the set. The oldest song of the night was “Demon of The Fall” from My Arms, Your Hearse. It was nice to hear Akerfeldt slip so easily back into his guttural death metal voice. He still has absolutely no problem singing that way, which is something this writer had wondered about since his switch over to clean vocals almost exclusively on the past three albums. The band also tore through “Face of Melinda”, the epic track from 1999’s Still Life and a personal favourite of mine. It was nice to have these pre-2000 songs included in the show.
I’ve managed to see the band play at least once on every album cycle now since Watershed. In my honest opinion, I think the band has improved immeasurably since the addition of Axenrot on drums. He is a monster player, absolutely perfect for this band, but the musician that impressed me most on Wednesday night was keyboardist Joakim Svalberg. Not only is he a master musician, he has really fit right into the band as a backing vocalist. His voice works so well with Akerfeldt in a live setting, the harmonies on Wednesday night really made an impression on me. I also loved his Mellotron work on a number of the tracks.
Of the new tracks the band played, the stand out for me was the mellow, somewhat Jethro Tull sounding “Will O the Wisp”. It’s the song that really stood out for me the first half dozen times I had the chance to listen to Sorceress in its entirety. Lighter in fare than the rest of the set, it helped show off those aforementioned vocal harmonies and was a nice, breezier tune before the band set off into high gear with crowd favourites “The Drapery Falls” and “The Devil’s Orchard”.
All in all, a fantastic show in a gorgeous setting. I hope they get to play there again next time too!
Ghost of Perdition
Demon of the Fall
The Wilde Flowers
Face of Melinda
In My Time of Need
Will O the Wisp
Cusp of Eternity
The Drapery Falls
The Devil’s Orchard