Opeth, having grown in popularity and acceptance, are one of those bands that people will always having something to say about. The positives are that they continually try new things with their sound and keep things fresh. The negatives lean heavily towards the more subdued nature of their recent output, beginning with “Heritage”. But one thing that all fans of the band can agree on is that they put on one hell of a live show, touring the globe and producing live albums and films to prove how worthy they are on stage. And so with the release of the band’s newest album “Sorceress” coming just days after the North American leg of their world tour commencing, Opeth have dropped in to Toronto’s beautiful Massey Hall to indulge fans of both the new material, and the old.
Accompanying the headliners on this tour is The Sword. With their sound rooted in seventies hard rock, the band come across with a convincing blend of fuzz-laden stoner rock with progressive tendencies and metal leanings thrown in for good measure. With a majority of their set list coming from their latest studio album, 2015’s “High Country”, the band came across as totally solid and exciting. The fans gave it back to this veteran band with much appreciation for their effort, and for getting the crowd moving and electric for the Swedish legends.
And with a quick set change, the progressive metal giants arrived to greet their legions of Toronto fans and opened with the title track from the new album. After hearing this album multiple times leading up to this show, I was excited to hear the new material in a live setting, and it came across without a hitch. “Ghost Of Perdition” followed which whipped the crowd into a frenzy with it’s mix of death growls and powerful riffage. And to further thrill the old-school fans, the band pulled out the classic “Demon Of The Fall”, which made the crowd delirious. “The Wilde Flowers” helped to calm the crowd down a tad with some new live music to digest, with “Face Of Melinda”, “In My Time Of Need” and another new treat in the tranquil “Will O The Wisp” following, and letting the crowd soak in the beautiful melodies and more laid back songs from their extensive catalogue.
Not wanting to let the crowd get too subdued, main man Mikael Akerfeldt and company started to ramp the crowd back up with “Cusp Of Eternity” and “The Drapery Falls”. “The Devil’s Orchard” played out wonderfully and shows how incredible and powerful their post death metal attitude translates in the live setting. “Hex Omega” closed out the set with a roar from the crowd. The band returned one more time to send us off into the night on a high note, and that they did with choosing “Deliverance” as their encore. With full lights and energy from the Toronto faithful, Opeth made myself and the crowd realize that they thrive when playing to their devoted fan base.
It also bears noting that Akerfeldt’s infamous humorous side still comes across in hilarious form during song breaks, with the singer engaging the crowd with stories about meeting Robb Flynn from Machine Head and bringing up the guitarists recording tendencies with his old band Vio-lence, to telling the fan member yelling “Freebird” about how he owns all of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s catalogue (and him even teasing a song from that particular group). He also teased playing Kiss when recounting that they played in this same concert hall during their heyday. And I can’t forget him constantly ragging on drummer Martin Axenrot for talking to a stagehand during the song breaks, once remarking “I believe Martin shat himself”. Akerfeldt not only over joys us with his music, but makes us roar with laughter. What a guy.
So with a somewhat hard to please fan base which is either too picky on their musical direction at times, or upset with exclusions of certain songs from the set list, the band managed to win over everyone. Spanning their entire catalogue minus three albums, there was really something for everyone to enjoy. And with that knowledge, the most important part of the evening was to realize that this band loves what they do and loves their fans, which makes them the live show to beat as far as giving their all with every single song and show. And for myself, after not seeing them since the “Deliverance” tour, I was overjoyed to realize that they haven’t lost a step in the live atmosphere in that large of a time span.