Opeth and Katatonia Play To Music City
Band Photo: Opeth (?)
Their latest and most polarizing album, “Heritage,” just released to the world (and reviewed here,) Opeth began their fall North American tour with support from the well-established Katatonia. One of the first shows was in Nashville, TN just this Wednesday, the 28th, and the crowd didn’t react as divided as the internet let on that it would. The Cannery Ballroom turned out to be the perfect size for the show, with the crowd filling up all the way to the back.
Both bands had a very passionate crowd, eager to find a spot and keep it the entire show. When Katatonia came on, they walked out to fairly loud cheers, kicking things off with their concoction of chugging and atmospherics. During the set, the band was bathed in a dark red crimson light, with only faint hues of blue lights hitting them from the front, mixing with the music to make for an altogether dark experience.
The material played was mostly newer, with guitarist Anders Nystrom and vocalist Jonas Renkse coordinating their vocals to balance out the sludge-chug of the guitars. The mix was extremely bass-heavy for most of the set, which actually made the rhythms hit more effectively. Highlights included “Soil’s Song,” “Ghost of the Sun,” “July,” and the closer, “Leaders.”
Before the show, the talk during the wait in the line out the door was mostly about how the growl-less Opeth set was going to go over, with some calling it weak. The internet spoils surprises like this nowadays, as lead guitarist/vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt noted during the set (“Fuck the internet.”) Either way, everyone was on edge. In the past, Åkerfeldt had claimed Opeth was “always going to be a death metal band,” but in the DVD that came with “Heritage,” he noted how he wanted to move away from the past. Was this going to be a permanent change in the Opeth sound? Is it just another palette or flavor of Opeth, like Damnation was? Are they going to play “Demon of the Fall” ever again? Rumors ran rampant.
However divided the crowd’s opinions may have been, most everyone was excited to see the band in Nashville again. The last time they were near here, they played the annual Tennessee Bonnaroo festival on a much bigger stage than the one they had tonight. Opeth walked out to a deafening crowd and screams of “Martin Mendez – best bassist in the world!,” to which Mikael would later joke about when introducing him. The first few notes of “The Devil’s Orchard” were played and the crowd lit up.
After that great starting song, the band followed most of the afore-linked-to set list except for “Credence,” which was not played. I will admit that I like Opeth far too much to be objective about their live show, so I will suggest to anyone even considering the possibility of seeing the band on this tour that they do so and decide for themselves what they think. I was far too wrapped up in swaying to the rhythm of “Porcelain Heart,” “Folklore,” and “Nepenthe” to really question their performance. They sounded fantastic and, to my musician’s ears, were spot-on on all of their parts, especially Akesson’s fusion-inspired solos in the new songs.
There were some loud hecklers and drunk jock-moshers getting their kicks in the pit during the acoustic songs, which was annoying, but not at all surprising for Nashville. New keyboardist Joachim Svalkberg demonstrated all of his keyboards, drummer Martin Axenrot busted out a slick drum solo, and Akesson jokingly demonstrated a Rudolf Schenker stage technique. They were in good spirits and ended the evening with the splendid mellotron-heavy “Folklore.”
Next up on their tour itinerary is Center Stage in Atlanta, GA tonight.
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