Credit where credit is due, the night was well executed. I arrived on site half an hour before doors opened, and the lines of fans waiting to get in stretched as far as the eye could see (and presumably around the corner too). Come 8pm, venue security personnel were instructing everyone to form two lines, and to have their tickets and ID out ready. The prompt and professional service meant minimal time was needed to get tickets checked and patrons into the venue. It was posted on event pages online that the opening band would take to the stage at 8:30pm, with Opeth at 9:30pm, and recognition should go out to the roadie crew and bands, they stayed on schedule.
A sold out Powerstation venue is an amazing sight to see; long lines to purchase band merchandise, and two packed floors of patrons fizzing with excitement. Opeth has been around for 27 years now, and it showed in the widely varied demographic; mixed male to female ratios, ages ranging from teens to senior citizens, and in many cases the actual multi-generational fans (fathers out with their daughters, and mothers with their sons, all of whom were fans). The eclectic mix of people had a great vibe, and it mirrored the acts of the night.
Without any fanfare, or even an introduction, Caligula’s Horse jumped straight into their set. Jim Grey’s a diverse vocal style could be compared to both Kim Benzie of Dead Letter Circus and Maynard James Keenan from A Perfect Circle, with his use of clean and abrasive vocals respectively. Providing a variety of singing styles from soft choir, to an abrasive vocal distortion, the similar use of mixing and combining musical styles makes them a great choice for an opening band for Opeth. Judging by the crowd’s reaction to the performance (or lack thereof), it is easy to see the downside of having an Australian act opening for all shows on a Australia/New Zealand Tasman Tour; a complete lack of the bands back catalogue of songs had the audience effectively stunned motionless. The crowds were polite, and applauded and cheered at every opportunity, but it was obvious that the crowd were standing listening to what was new material for them, rather than moshing to songs they were familiar with. Caligula’s Horse did have some initial nerves, and this was easily observed through their inter-song banter with the crowd, but as they played through their set, they finally started to get some movement from the crowd, and responded by improving their own drive and performance on stage. The Brisbane-based alt progressive rockers were definitely as described, and put together a stellar performance. The technicality was there with a rich full sound, which encapsulated a number of sub-genres in every song; whether shredding, djent, synchronized play-through, or harmonizing, they executed it all to perfection.
Opeth themselves had no issues with a lack of fanfare, with every member walking on stage individually and their own personalised ovations from the sold out venue. Beginning the set with the title track from the 2016 Sorceress album, the audience erupted in a flurry of fists and devil horns as they began to push and shove towards the front. Opeth completed a ten song set, spanning across two hours, including two tracks from the latest release Sorceress. The remaining song on the set consisted of a track from every album released all the way back to the 1998 release My Arms, Your Hearse. Morningrise and Orchid were the only alums left unrepresented. The crowd remained energetic throughout the night, cheering at every opportunity, and heartily singing along with such tracks as “In my Time of Need” to the point that I could not hear vocalist Mikael Åkerfeldt over them. The band were as humble as they come, regaling his fans with their holiday antics, raining down apologies for the long 11 year gap between NZ shows, and warning to not be concerned by potentially erratic vocals or instruments due to the 36 hour flight and 12 hour time zone difference. The warnings were unnecessary however, as they had no issue at all with their sound, and showed no signs of fatigue. They transitioned from soft acoustics to heavy djents, finely tuned dissonance to shredding solos, clean melodic lyrics to unintelligible black metal growls, blending rock with folk, jazz, and blues, all in the same track.
To those that are unfamiliar with the band, the audial cacophony would be difficult to interpret. Where a song ends, is often indistinguishable, and the tracks vary wildly from around 5 minutes up to 15 minutes in length. Rather than the album being a journey, with Opeth every single track is an adventure, evolving across time, through musical genres, tempos and time signatures. But never does it come off as offensive, or unpalatable. Through the combination of heavy and soft riffs, the tranquillity and harmony of the songs shine through, creating an energy that the fills the crowd.
Mikael ended their evening with a final apology and a enticing dedication to grace our shores again before another 11 years comes to pass, and of course an encore song, the 15 minute long behemoth of a title track from the Deliverance album. What a way to go!