On This Day: Saturday 20th November 2016. Sorceress, the current album from Opeth, is really quite remarkable for its ability to send you down a rabbit hole of wonder, causing loss of time and disconnection from surroundings, and a desire to experience more of these musical tangents.
Opeth, SSE Wembley Arena, London
Saturday 20th November 2016
Words: Liz Medhurst – Pictures: Caroline Traitler
This show, their only UK stop on this tour and their largest UK headline to date, held similar mesmerising qualities, in the very accurately named An Evening Of Sorcery, Damnation And Deliverance.
The cavernous compound of Wembley Arena is one of only four across the world to feature this setlist, with a second set made up of tracks from 2002s Deliverance and 2004s Damnation – and it was magnificent.
The Opeth faithful were out in force, starting a mosh pit from the off and rapturously greeting the band who stormed into The Sorceress and then a performance of Ghosts Of Perdition which was beyond epic.
For two hours and forty five minutes, Opeth entranced with a plethora of moods, one minute laying bare several layers of soul with the most beautiful, ethereal melodies and then in a heartbeat changing to death Metal growls and face-melting riffs. Frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt can switch between honeyed tones and screams in a heartbeat and I’ve never heard this done as seamlessly before.
To further add to the contrast, in between this display of wonder, Mikael chatted to the crowd in such a relaxed way as if he was in the pub, showing no signs of exertion from the demanding material – some very cool sorcery abounded tonight. From the opening cheery greeting of “Hello, motherfuckers!” his banter was on form, the self-deprecating tone and fantastically dry sarcasm a wonderful counterpoint to the emotion of the music.
‘Face Of Melinda’ was a highlight of the first set, not just for the performance, but also for the sight of the ballroom dancing happening in the mosh pit – Opeth do attract the unexpected.
The sound mix was on point and the dramatic lighting was pitched just right, deep vibrant colours and highlights such as the crescents illuminating Demon Of The Fall.
Heir Apparent blew everyone away with its forcefulness and majesty, a perfect example of a track which most prog Metal bands would give their eye teeth to have as a set closer, where here it was merely one of many of similar quality, especially coming so soon after the breathtaking Cusp Of Eternity.
With the Damnation And Deliverance set, Mikael explained that these two albums were recorded back to back and “this recording time was the fucking shittiest time, but we got some good songs from it. We are not as well rehearsed, so sorry if we fuck up”, before performing a simply glorious If Death Was My Lullaby, which even he had to admit was “not too shabby”.
Later he turned himself into the Gerald Ratner of Metal when he introduced By The Pain I See In Others, explaining that it was only the third time it had ever been played, because “it’s a piece of shit but it’s fun to play. I don’t know the lyrics, but they’re growly so it doesn’t really matter”.
It’s a real testament to the band and the emotions that they generate that they can get away with statements like this which are genuinely funny and not remotely disrespectful to their art.
Towards the very end of the set the band all looked fresh as daisies still, only stopping when the tour manager gestured frantically from the wings, pointing out that the curfew was approaching, Åkerfeldt reluctantly bringing proceedings to a close to avoid the hefty fine as “I need my fucking cocaine”.
Tonight we witnessed a band at the top of their game, with extremes of beauty and heaviness, an alchemy that brought forth a sublime elixir. Truly there is no band around like Opeth, they are way out at the front of the pack and this enthralling spectacular hit every spot.