Concerts are a mixed bag for me, and they always will be, regardless of which band or musician I end up seeing. I love the idea of witnessing music performed live, and I love being able to be a part of the music, even for just a moment. There’s something deeply romantic to me knowing that you are aiding to the din of noise all around. Unfortunately I also hate large crowds. And assholes. Which is awesome when you’re seeing a group like the Samurai Conquistadors — a band from my home town — who have maybe 50, to 100 people show up at their performances, but when you decide to see two major modern metal acts, well you just have to grin and bear that shit. Even if the aforementioned shit happens to be no-fun-having-hipsters-who-refuse-to-move-or-smile-or-do-anything-indicating-that-they-are-enjoying-the-bands-of-the-night. Yeah.
The night’s events opened with the tolling of ominous bells. The sound was designed to evoke a feeling of dread and anticipation; it did just that. The band, completely shrouded from head to toe in black, inched their way on stage, and their mighty leader followed after. I wasn’t a big fan of Ghost‘s 2010 debut, Opus Eponymous, but I had been told numerous times that the band was far better live. With that in mind I was fairly excited for this act.
Without wasting much time the band set things into gear and began their set. They play 5 or 6 songs from their album and in this setting the music sounded phenomenal. Everything seemed to be ramped up and much heavier than before, and with a band like Ghost I had always felt that they were particularly lacking in the heaviness department. Aside from the music the band put on a splendid show with some really impressive light coordination and general in-between-song-creepiness. It’s easy to imagine someone being converted into Satan’s ranks at an event like this.
Now, I’m sure we all know that Mastodon and Opeth are fairly prominent metal acts in the year 2012. They’ve both just released stellar albums that took both bands in new directions, and they are receiving critical and commercial success the likes of which they have never had before. It’s a good year for these two entities. However, when I initially heard of this tour I was a bit perplexed. It has been no secret that Opeth have been performing songs off of Heritage and little else — an album that is distinctly lacking in most things ‘metal’ — which isn’t a bad thing at all, but when paired with Mastodon’s album The Hunter, I couldn’t help but feel that these two sonic events would clash a bit.
And indeed, Opeth’s set was predominantly composed of material from Heritage, and initially I was worried that their set would be a tad boring, but it wasn’t long after the first song started playing — ‘The Devil’s Orchard‘ — that I turned my full attention to the band, and allowed myself to become fully immersed in their sound. Instead of the soft spoken, and often times muddy sounds present on the studio album, in the live context the songs performed were given some much needed oomph and power. And towards the end Opeth gave the audience a little taste of their former death metal stylings with two songs from their third album My Arms, Your Hearse. Each song bombarded its way through the venue, and really showed off the skill of this band. It was an enriching experience that has since driven several of my friends to delve into the depths of Opeth’s discography.
One of the true highlights of this performance was the stage presence of one Mikael Akerfeldt. The man not only stole the show with his luscious voice and spot on guitar playing, but also with his hilarious in-between song banter. The topics ranged from the size and shape of his penis, the activities of drunken Swedes, and the radio station that the band started picking up in their monitors half-way through the set. Needless to say, it was quite the experience.
When you hear people discuss Mastodon shows one of the things you’re more than likely to hear complaints about is how they apparently cannot pull off the vocals. It has become a legendary staple of criticism for the band that they just cannot deliver on the proggy vocals that have made up the sound of their last two albums. And that was the first thing I really noticed with their set; not how poorly performed the vocals were, but rather just how wrong everyone seems to have been. This was my first Mastodon show, so the criticism leveled at the band was probably justified for their tours with Crack The Skye, but everything in the vocal range was so top notch at this show. There were a few hiccups with Brent Hinds, but they were few, far between, and barely discernible.
Where a lot of performers interject stage humor or anecdotes in their sets in an attempt to form some meager connection with their fans, Mastodon played from the moment they stepped on stage to the moment they left. They relied solely on their music, the tone of their guitars, the inflection of their voices, and the emotion in their faces to bond with the audience. Normally this minimalist sort of crowd interaction would disappoint or anger me, but it was clear with Mastodon that they wanted their music to speak for itself. And indeed it did. There were several instances during the night where I was almost entirely overcome with emotion. I won’t lie, hearing the pained vocals of Troy and Brent on ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Crack the Skye‘ brought a few “manly” tears to my eyes.
Overall, this was a phenomenal concert, and easily one of the best set of live performances I’ve been able to witness. Each band performed in very different, distinct and memorable ways that really emphasized and enhanced the core components of the bands. Ghost brought in an air of mysticism and dark allure; Opeth was able to calm our senses, and provide some brief flashes of humor; Mastodon was the powerhouse of the night, and emitted pure heavy metal for just over an hour. It was a balanced set of performers, and a tour that everyone should go see, if they still have the chance!
Oh, and what’s a concert without a souvenir?