Opeth’s show at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, on February 22 felt in many ways like a personal performance amongst friends, so comfortable were the intimate theater’s confines. Say a few words out loud at anything above regular talking volume and frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt just might hear you.
“We’re a hat band now,” he remarked with his trademark dry wit when someone in the audience yelled out “Nice hat, Mikael!” between songs, before the singer name-checked various other well-known “hat bands” throughout rock n’ roll history. The hat became a talking point of the evening, as did the phrase “decent,” which Åkerfeldt fired back when a fan screamed, “You’re awesome, Mikael!” “I don’t know about awesome… we’re decent,” he responded. He’d repeat the phrase often throughout the night. Never shy on self-deprecating comments, that one!
Åkerfeldt’s between-song banter is a highlight of any Opeth show — I saw more people take piss breaks during songs than between them — but that’s no slag on the incredible setlist, which was heavy on material from the band’s four most recent, post-death metal albums but contained a smattering from throughout their catalogue as well, including a few old school heavy jams. When Mikael pretended to invite the audience to call out requests (“That didn’t work,” he responded, after letting the crowd shout song names willy-nilly for a solid 15 seconds), the band even launched into an impromptu, one-minute version of “Bleak,” dialed down to jazz trio decibels because the guitarists had their acoustic simulators on in preparation for the set’s next proper song, “To Rid the Disease.” Truth is, fans didn’t mind one bit that Opeth leaned into the newer stuff; for all the crap they seem to give Opeth online for leaving death metal in the past, in person everyone was into it.
The stage production was stellar, too, with a giant video backdrop that continued onto the front of the drum, bass and keyboard risers and an array of lights that flooded the stage with colors. I think I may’ve detected a vague earth, air, water and fire theme in the visual design progressing throughout the night, but my stoned brain may’ve been reaching.
One more observation: I’ve rarely seen such a wide variety of metal band t-shirts at a show. Lamb of God, Amorphis, Portal, Carach Angren… mainstream, underground, doesn’t really matter: every metalhead loves Opeth! They’re the great uniters of metal.
Those who attended the previous night’s show at the same venue got an identical setlist (minus the acoustic “Bleak” jam), so I’ve got no qualms about posting my review from Saturday along with MetalSucks contributing photographer Jason Bailey‘s photos from Friday. I’m positive what Jason witnessed the previous night was absolutely phenomenal, too… errrr, decent. Check ’em out below.
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