Opeth

support The Vintage Caravan
author AP date 17/11/19 venue Den Gamle Scene, Copenhagen, DEN

Opeth continue to upgrade their choice of venue when passing through Denmark. Last time, the band played DR Koncerthuset’s symphony hall, and now 1600 fortunate guests have been invited to experience their brand of progressive metal in the even more grandiose confines of the Royal Theatre’s Old Stage, which dates back to 1874. So where will they play next? Surely, it will have to be the Opera House. I thus make sure to arrive early enough that I have some time to marvel at the architecture of this classic theatre, wherein I have only been once before to watch the Royal Danish Ballet’s take on “The Nutcracker”. It will be a very different evening tonight, methinks…

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen


The Vintage Caravan

After overcoming initial difficulties with frontman Óskar Logi Ágústsson’s guitar, this Icelandic power trio immediately justify their being invited along as the special guests on Opeth’s latest European tour. This is the final show on the itinerary, and one can tell from the verve of the three musicians that they want to make this a night to remember; all of them are playing their hearts out, and if this were not a seated venue, the hard rock outfit would have the audience off their feet within minutes of “Reflections” (from 2018’s “Gateways”) kicking things off. And once the mixer dials and sliders are in their correct setting come the second song “Set Your Sights”, the band receives an additional boost from the sheer oomph with which their music is relayed through this classic venue’s PA system. Indeed, perhaps with the exception of their surprise appearance at Roadburn Festival in 2017, this is not only the most engaging, but also the heaviest concert I have seen the ‘Caravan deliver to date, which makes it quite ironic that the crowd’s ability to participate in the euphoria is so limited. There is resounding applause of course, and lots of heads banging to the rhythm of tracks like “Crazy Horses” and “Babylon” (both from the group’s 2015 album “Arrival”), and this curbed enthusiasm seems to encourage them to a point where, during the excellent “Innerverse”, bassist Alexander Örn Númason is literally punching the strings of his instrument while Agústsson rips out a guitar solo. Later on, Númason and drummer Stefán Ari Stefánsson are afforded space to deliver their own solos during and before “Expand Your Mind” (off 2014’s “Voyage”), placing a fine cap on an invigorating performance by the two musicians. Unlike their headlining concert earlier this year, here The Vintage Caravan actually succeed in forming a strong bond with their borrowed audience and thus leave me nodding with approval after “Midnight Meditation” has brought the proceedings to a conclusion.

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Opeth

Opeth’s live production today is a compact and modern affair, in which most of the stage — divided into two levels — doubles as a collection of LED screens, yet strangely, none of it feels misplaced in the markedly more traditional confines of the Old Stage. As “Livets trädgård” starts to resonate from a backing track, those screens are enlisted to create an effect of fireflies swarming toward the ceiling, while, in the shadows within, the five musicians make their entry and immediately set loose “Svekets prins” (off the Swedish version of Opeth’s latest album “In Cauda Venenum”). The fireflies turn to cinders and fall down like snowflakes, while big orange floodlights softly illuminate an otherwise dimly lit stage when that song reaches its quiet, acoustic passage halfway, and it would surprise me if anyone did not think this was a spectacularly produced show already. We have not heard anything except for a loud shush from frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt so far (he responds thusly to an equally loud whistle from the audience), but after an early deep cut in “The Leper Affinity” (taken from 2001’s “Blackwater Park”), as well as a heavy rendition of “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör”, his personality, which is so integral to a successful Opeth concert, flares up at last.

Donning an Amish hat and wearing a stylish blazer, Åkerfeldt has the appearance of a very serious progressive rock musician, but as everyone who has witnessed the man live can tell you, his banter in between the songs is anything but. As ever, the Danish crowd chooses Swedish as the language in which Åkerfeldt will be addressing us, but after it becomes clear that no one actually understands his Stockholm accent (despite laughing politely at his remarks), he decides to drop the humour for a moment and instead leads his band into a beautiful take on “Reverie/Harlequin Forest” (off 2005’s “Ghost Reveries”). By now a pattern has emerged in the setlist for tonight: older songs are not shunned, but the choices are very much in keeping with the atmosphere and tone of the later, more classically progressive albums. This stunning contemplative piece has not been aired in Denmark since 2012, and as such, it visibly enamours the audience, who seem to be at peace with Opeth’s gradual leaving their death metal past behind. Åkerfeldt may not be operating at a hundred percent tonight, as he points out in the wake of this song, but it is difficult to imagine anyone turning sour because of his singing performance in the following “Nepenthe” from the band’s 2011 offering “Heritage”, which is fittingly played amongst soft glow bulbs that create a candle-like effect on stage. I have never experienced this song in the live setting before, and although the jazzy, unconventional style of Martin Axenrot’s drumming renders it something of an odd one out, it nonetheless manages to send shivers down my spine.

“GROWL!”, someone yells after that song has been brought to its conclusion, and Åkerfeldt dryly responds: “Growlish? I know that. There will be some messages in growlish later. Now we are going to play one of the more difficult songs in our discography… which I don’t like. I like easy songs I can play after taking heroin.” He is speaking about “Moon Above, Sun Below” — one of the standout tracks off Opeth’s stupendous 2014 LP “Pale Communion”, and while I had forgotten how jarring and dynamic this track is, it certainly brings what was promised to the table and probably awakens something within some of the elderly people I have spotted in the audience tonight, who still remember the heyday of progressive rock clear as daylight. The delivery of this song also emphasises the fact that even though Opeth are not exactly invigorating to watch as far as any sort of wild stage antics go, the five musicians are all virtuosic at their respective trades, which means that the nimble fretwork of lead guitarist Fredrik Åkesson, for example, is a sight to behold regardless of his standing still for the entire duration of the set. His solo in the subsequent “Hope Leaves” (off 2003’s “Damnation”) damn near brings tears to my eyes.

As we near the end of the ordinary set, it takes a heavier turn with the onset of “The Lotus Eater”, an excellent take from 2008’s “Watershed”. The song is accompanied by morphing, geometric visuals that create a trippy atmosphere, as if to finalise our total immersion in this masterful performance before it can be brought to a close, appropriately, with “Allting tar slut” (the Swedish language version of “All Things Will Pass”) as a video of the sun rising behind our spinning Earth plays in the background. The group exits for a brief moment, and then returns once more to satisfy the ravenous metallers among us — first by virtue of the title track to 2016’s “Sorceress”, and since with the staple, though always breathtaking “Deliverance”, which features one of the most perfect crescendos ever written, and as such acts as the ideal grand finale. The Stockholm legends receive a long standing ovation, which is only appropriate considering the drama and elegance of the experience they have given to us.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Svekets prins
  • 02. The Leper Affinity
  • 03. Hjärtat vet vad handen gör
  • 04. Reverie/Harlequin Forest
  • 05. Nepenthe
  • 06. Moon Above, Sun Below
  • 07. Hope Leaves
  • 08. The Lotus Eater
  • 09. Allting tar slut

— Encore —

  • 10. Sorceress
  • 11. Deliverance

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