The Palais, Melbourne VIC
13 December, 2019
For most, this was their final gig of the decade, so we’d better make it count, right? Boy, did we. Opeth fans in Melbourne would have had major Sydney-envy from a previous tour where they played at the Opera House, but this time around, the Scandinavian titans did a full blown Australian theatre tour; now’s our chance for the In Cauda Venenum tour.
To go to a metal gig at The Palais was seriously something special. It’s not fair to brush over the fine details like onlooking a swarm of black tee wearing metal-heads having a quick smoke before the gig outside of the sunflower yellow colour painted establishment during sunset, next to the monumental Luna Park on St Kilda beach. It was enjoyable to watch the theatre staff adapt to the less-than-posh demographic who lined up to get their $45 band shirt; BYO monocle.
Local band Circles punctually hit the stage with a very sharp sound. Everything was tuned incredibly loud, no doubt with the theatre’s acoustics lending a very special hand to those decibels. The progressive metal outfit played tunes off their latest record The Last One and a few from the back catalogue. Throughout the set punters were looking up and around at the carefully architectured high ceiling and balcony seating – we were still figuring out how we belong here (truth was, we didn’t). Circles gave us a reason to be excited about a sit-down metal show at the theatre, we didn’t have to do much, yet our senses were in overload, and it still felt pretty special.
After a quick opportunity to have a stretch between sets, punters rapidly made their way back to their assigned seats, with help from suited ushers and their flashlights, where you may have been called ‘madame’ or ‘sir’ – fancy af.
At nine o’clock sharp, the house-lights shut and dim blue and red shinings focussed on the stage to the headliners’ latest album’s opening track ‘Livets trädgård’ as Opeth hit the stage to start playing ‘Svekets prins’ – both the Swedish versions. All of a sudden, the prior confusion and discomfort of the theatre experience felt wholly fitting, as we all sunk into our chairs a little bit more.
The very quaint Mikael Åkerfeldt composed himself very calmly, wearing a vintage Swedish hat as he sung the beautiful opening hymns from the Swedes’ latest record, as he always does. Opeth were playing LOUDLY at The Palais, with each note stroking our ears with pleasure, being delivered with absolute perfection.
The band obviously knew what fans wanted to hear, so they don’t waste time as they launch into tracks like ‘The Leper Affinity’ from ‘Blackwater Park’ which, unfortunately for Opeth, will always be the real MVP – and there was more to come.
It was the banter from front-man Åkerfeldt that made the evening a true Opeth show. He engaged with the audience and started with a “good evening” type of approach, which was hilariously responded to by metal-heads with a starkly different response like “we fucking love you Michael” (intentional spelling to really help re-create the moment).
The vocalist took to the Aussie metal-heads perfectly as he giggled his way through all the comments, responding to most – almost until it seemed like he was thinking “alright, get your shit together” as he responded to a group of isolated comments with “calm down, we’re at the fucking theatre, alright?!” – a subtle acknowledgement to the band’s awkward decision to bring a metal show to all Aussie cities via a theatre tour, a kind of brave, albeit unique and absolutely awesome decision let it be known.
What was particularly cool about this Opeth show, was that, even though fans are well-aware of the band’s more recent musical direction, and have embraced it, the band played to that contrast by not only playing older tracks next to newer ones, but by calling out the juxtaposition, which made each of them stand-out in their own way. This was exemplified through the jolt between the not at all clean vocal effort from ‘Reverie/Harlequin Forest’ within the ‘Ghost Reveries’ record followed immediately by the beautifully clean ‘Nepenthe’ from ‘’Heritage’.
Scandinavian death metal, am I right?
The music sounded pristine in the theatre, it was simply incredible to experience. One can only imagine what the experience would have sounded like at The Sydney Opera House a few years ago.
As the show went on, Åkerfeldt continued to engage, flirt and laugh with the audience who were lapping up his responses from the crowd, and calling out the hilarious cultural differences between Australia and Sweden.
The band called it a night briefly before returning on stage to play epic encore tracks ‘Sorceress’ and ‘Deliverance’ after introducing each band member – a really nice touch. All-in-all, I think it’s safe to say that many fans would call it the best Opeth show they’ve ever seen, and who knows, maybe we’ll be keen to see more metal at the theatre – after all, a new decade is upon us.
Review by Ricky Aarons @rickysaul90
Opeth – 2019 Australian Tour
Dec 14th. Sydney – State Theatre
Dec 15th. Brisbane – Tivoli Theatre