GIG REVIEW: An Evening With OPETH & ANATHEMA Live at Wembley Arena, London
These are two bands I have been listening to since I was a teenager. Opeth broke in my brain for growls and heavy guitars, while keeping a folky ambience my Glastonbury-born hippy sentiment could connect to. Anathema pure flung me into nihilism, although they really don’t give that vibe live, and every time I’ve seen them I’ve been surprised at how post rock and melodic they’ve been. Not sure why; possibly because my favorite track was always Pressure, an anthem about depression unlike anything I’d heard at that time. However, considering the path of Opeth in recent years, and Anathema’s early death metal beginnings, this collaboration is far more fitting than it might seem from the tracks that they became popularly known for individually.
Anathema opened to an enthusiastic crowd, these guys are headliners easily themselves. Wembley brought the stage a bit closer to one end, which was perfect, more intimate. Every standing and seated person had a great view. Powerfully and emotionally playing classics from throughout their albums, they powered through their set, which felt a little short. The crescendo, for me, was A Natural Disaster, a track where singer Lee Douglas’ vocals never fail to pierce my soul. Ending on a promising, solid post rock track Springfield from their upcoming new album, our gothic minds are opened and ready for Opeth to get heavy on us.
Opeth split their set in sections; an array of old tracks, then a selection from Damnation, and lastly from Deliverance. These guys make it look so easy. After photographing, I made my way up to my seat in the stalls. One thing I did notice, was that it was quite quiet; and one thing I’d forgotten since last seeing Opeth many years ago, was Mikael’s rapport with the crowd. It seems I wasn’t the only one to notice the quiet volume- in between tracks, Mikael bantered with the crowd about how it’s going, and the volume was noted, and duly increased.
Watching the crowd, I reminisced to their past gigs I’d seen. I would claw my way to the front, stand on the edge of the mosh pit, pinching and pushing the sweaty, topless hairy moshers, laughing at the carnage, pulling people up off the floor. The crowd this night was much more reserved, possibly due to their post rock transition, and almost entirely merely headbangers; save for a small group of people, who, during my contemplation on this through Face Of Melinda, were actually ballroom dancing. This was picked up by Mikael, joking he cannot dance save for “the electric boogie”. He was promptly urged to boogie, and after waiting for the crowd to stop chanting, muttered a mere, comical, “shut up.” His interaction with the crowd has always been humble and fun, and an integral part of the live Opeth experience. Ten-fifteen minutes of death metal, then a bit of humour.
It’s a winning combination; fantastic music, expertly delivered, a full range of emotions from soulful to carnage, and an enigmatic front man to interact with the crowd. Even if Opeth aren’t quite your favourite band for this genre, I highly recommend their live experience. I looked back on my teenage self with pride at my good taste, and vowed I would catch future gigs, once again.
Taking up a prime night at Wembley on Saturday 19th November, death and doom metal to post rock transitional heavyweights Opeth and Anathema joined forces for an evening of old and new delights.