Opeth (Perth, 2003)

This was a gig that history told us was not going to happen. When Opeth's tour dates for their Australian tour were released, there was one very obvious ommission from the schedule – Perth. So rather than accept defeat, Perth's metal community garnered as much support as they could and kept plugging away at the band, their management, and the promoters until the decision to include Perth as a venue was finally realised. But was the gig a success, or was Opeth's decision to not include Perth justified…?

Turning up to the Globe at 8pm for the opening of the doors yielded a wait in a queue about 200m long and 5 people thick – obviously Opeth had more support in this little town than they thought. Many people in that queue had been waiting in line since 6pm, just to hear the sound checks through the closed doors – yes, this was a moderately sized, but very dedicated crowd of metal-starved punters.


First up on the evening's bill were Vespers Descent. I hadn't seen Vespers for close to 12 months, so it was great to see them in action on a big stage and in front of more than a few handfuls of people. For a warmup band, they did a good job of getting more than a few feet shuffling and more than one head wagging in time to some great riffs and thoughtful song writing. Jack's vocals were clear, the bass drums were extremely powerful, but overall the sound wasn't overly great. To no real fault of the band, the quality of the sound was slightly on the muddy side and perhaps too much emphasis was given to the skin ensemble. But all in all, Vespers created some good energy within the crowd, and set the scene for a ear deafening night out.


Pathogen, a definate local favourite, were also dogged by problems from before the start of the show. Minus their regular vocalist, Louie on drums donned the Nocturnus-esque style headset and growled his way through the set while bashing the hell out of his skins. A fine performance at pretty short notice. As the main support act for almost every recent international band who tours Perth, the expectations for Pathogen these days are quite high from the locals – and they did not disappoint this time round either. Again, some dubious sound equipment created some severe bass revebs towards the end of their set but the quality of their overall performance was the dominating factor. The crowd certainly whipped themselves into a quasi-frenzy for at least three or four of their songs, building on the mood that Vespers had set earlier in the evening.


A half hour wait, to the mellow overtones of Slayer's "Reign in Blood" was all the crowd had in order to muster their collective energies for the main act – Opeth. A huge roar greeted Mikael, Peter, Martin, and Martin as they took stage – the upper balcony was buzzing with energy, and the pit below started to crush forward as the first few notes of "The Leper Affinity" belted out. For the folk that do not know much of Opeth, it is rare for Opeth to play a song under 10 minutes long – which is why I was a little surprised that this version of the opening track was much shorter than the original…perhaps only 5 or 6 minutes long. Not that anyone seemed to mind or realise – the fact that Opeth were even playing at all was what tonight was about.

From a relatively new song, straight into "Advent" from the Morningrise album, Opeth surged their way through massive riffs, demonically inspired vocals from Mikael Akerfeldt – punctuated by thunderous drumming by Martin Lopez – to some of the most serene 70's inspired guitar work from Peter Lindgren, slapped bass from Martin Mendez, and feather soft vocals from Mikael again … all in the single beat of the heart. "Advent" is a classic track, from a classic metal album – and the crowd knew its significance in the metal archives. The energy at the front barrier was amazing during the heavy sections of the song, and during the mellow sections, almost every mouth was moving in unison with Mr Akerfeld's.

"Deliverance", the title track from the promotional album, was next cab off the rank, and again the band delivered it perfectly. A personal highlight for me on the album version is the haunting clean vocals used as a refrain, after some of the most brutal death metal provided by any band ever. To hear that executed so wonderfully in a live setting is a memory that I'll take with me for a very long time. "Godhead's Lament" followed next, then "The Drapery Falls" – two songs that will inspire many generations of metal fans to creat music at new levels. In two words, one could call them both 'genre inspiring' such is their delicate balance of heartache, sorrow, loss, and sheer anger. After "The Drapery Falls", the lower deck of the Globe was soaking wet – 5 songs, over 1 hour's worth of music almost uninterrupted had passed by, and the crowd had lived every moment in raptures.

Mikael asked the crowd for lighters in the air for the next track – usually this conjures images of a lesser band trying to mellow out and gain a chart topping hit by luring 12 year olds and their girlfiends into buying the latest 'snog' song. For me, this meant that "Credence" was about to begin. Whilst still refraining from partaking in the cigarette lighter held aloft, I took the opportunity to take a breather and really watch the band play such a beautiful song. Martin Mendez' bass work was fantastic – alternating between slapped bass sections, to Cliff Burton inspired bass thrash, to delicate finger work … it really was a textbook display. "Credence" flowed into "Bleak" and again the crowd showed their appreciation for the Blackwater Park album. The 'final' song for the night was the sadness inspired track titled "A Fair Judgement" off Opeth's last album, again executed wonderfully.

As has become habit in Opeth's live performances, an encore track was given to the Perth audience. Not that we asked for the encore song to be played – we demanded it with deafening calls for more amidst the internal haemorrhaging of the Globe. This time it was, as Mikael Akerfeldt called it, 'pure fucking death metal' – "Demon of the Fall". A fantastic way to finish off a near faultless performance by Opeth. Over 90 minutes of solid music had expired, the crowd was a seething mass of hair, sweat, and bruises, and pure ecstasy was written over almost ever punter's face after the show. That to me says, 'a job well done Opeth'.

A few final tid-bits that became very apparent during the evening. Firstly, how polite the band and in particular Mikael are. This might sound odd, but never moment went by when the crowd were thanked for their support, thanked for coming to the show – the appreciation from the band to the crowd was so very apparent. Considering we were all thinking the same thing but in reverse, it was a really good feeling to know that Opeth understand and acknowledge the importance of their fans. Secondly, this was a lesson in crowd control. Not from a security perspective, but in terms of a band channeling their energy though the crowd. Whilst most bands can generate a total frenzy in the mosh pit with blasting beats and thrashed guitars, it is another talent to be able to halt that chaos in the blink of an eye and have almost every person holding hands aloft and singing the next few serene vocal lines, before continuing into a crazed mess again immediately after. And thirdly, it was also a lesson in crowd control – this time from a security perspective. I thought that the security guys at the front did their job admirably all night – as a friend noted after the show, for once security staff provided water intead of taking blood. Oh yeah, and the gig was a succcess.