GIG REVIEW: OPETH & THE SWORD Live at Massey Hall, Toronto
Opeth. Massey Hall. Oh, my apologies. Did you need more than that?
Well then, let’s start with the stoner rock and roll of the sole opener, The Sword. Keeping their set short and sweet, they warmed up the crowd’s head-banging skills with songs such as “Maiden, Mother & Crone”, “Tres Brujas”, and several tracks off of their 2015 album, ‘High Country’. While I would not have expected such a different choice in style to open this show, I enjoyed what The Sword had to offer. They performed well, especially drummer Santiago Vela III, whose approach was simple yet tight.
After a brief beer and bathroom break, the lights dimmed, the mood was set, and the crowd erupted as the one and only Opeth gradually appeared on stage. They played three tracks that night from the recently released album, ‘Sorceress’, beginning with the track of the same name. This was a great song to open with, as it gave each member a chance to take the spotlight, going cleanly from fusion to metal with the entrance of the guitars. Following that was a truly epic performance of “Ghost Of Perdition”, which I was very, very happy about. While the fans recovered, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt explained that the next song had originally featured himself on the bass, and introduced longtime bassist Martin Méndez as a much worthier candidate for the oldest Opeth tune of the set list, “Demon Of The Fall” (sorry, guy who kept screaming “Black Rose Immortal”).
Then came the second of the three newer songs, and one of my favourites off of the album, “The Wilde Flowers”, which was phenomenal. Fredrik Åkesson’s shredding solo was flawless, as if he needed another opportunity to make the guitar players in the audience want to throw in the proverbial towel. And of course, once the song let loose for the last twenty seconds, Martin “Axe” Axenrot showed off some spectacular snare work. The intensity wound down after that, with “Face Of Melinda” and a somewhat emotional “In My Time Of Need”.
The third ‘Sorceress’ song came in the form of “Will O The Wisp”, the more light-hearted guitar and accented high hat lifting the previously sombre tone. An even happier change in atmosphere occurred at the first notes of “Cusp Of Eternity”, from 2014’s ‘Pale Communion’. The only track from the generally fan-favorite album, “Blackwater Park’, was “The Drapery Falls”, a bittersweet moment for those who were hoping for the title track or “Bleak”. However, they could have spent the preceding hour covering “Free Bird” (which did come up in Åkerfeldt’s banter, by the way), and I wouldn’t have minded, once I heard that initial riff from “The Devil’s Orchard”.
As they approached the end of the set, Åkerfeldt announced that they had yet to play something from ‘Watershed’. At this, there were screams of “The Lotus Eater!”, which he instantly squashed. Instead, it was time for the explosive “Hex Omega”. When the obligatory false ending was accomplished, Opeth appeared once more for possibly the best encore one could hope for: “Deliverance”.
From the stellar guitar and keyboard work, to the heavy and intricate bass, perfectly accented drums, and of course, Åkerfeldt’s glorious vocals, Opeth certainly put on an impressive show, with Joakim Svalberg’s harmonies making all the difference. Massey Hall was a great venue as well, providing not only its usual comfort, but ideal sound and lighting. Åkerfeldt’s comedic quips added an extra amount of enjoyment to the evening, and while many amazing songs were left out of the set list, it was a balanced blend of classic songs and new material, quenching any fan’s appetite.