Opeth score victory with sublime display. Less said about the audience the better….
The very first English pantomime was performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1702. These days the commanding auditorium is more used for big scale musicals, but some of tonight’s audience made you feel like you’d stepped back into panto-land. And they certainly did a good impression of a bunch of screaming, pre-pubescent juveniles.
Quite what possesses a grown adult to purchase tickets for an event like this, which in this austere age don’t come cheap, and then think it’s perfectly acceptable to scream and holler to your heart’s content the kind of inane drivel I wouldn’t even expect from a six year old attending his first panto I really have no idea. But that’s what we got from a section of Opeth’s audience last night. Quite why Opeth fans would think it’s funny to scream for songs like Freebird and even Freres Jacques (yes, Freres fucking Jacques), and quite what they think they might have to do with Opeth I haven’t the faintest idea.
As the cat calls continued well into the second half of this show, there were plenty of people not seeing the funny side. Disgruntled punters began taking their leave well before the end and your correspondent was on the verge of taking pugilistic retribution should anyone within my immediate range decide to join the moronic chorus.
True, a gig is a social occasion and you can’t expect pin-drop silence every time, but this wasn’t the chit chat that so annoys sections of the prog audience. Whether these particular people had spent all afternoon watching the rugby in the pub and can’t hold their alcohol, I don’t know. Or maybe being removed from the sticky-floored comfort of a Brixton Academy to these lush surroundings scared them into acting like one of the more lunatic scenes from Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots.
It even seemed to affect the laid-back Mikael Akerfledt, who admittedly did little to quell the barrage of noise and whose on stage banter even seemed to unwittingly serve to incite it occasionally, chastising one call for The Moor (which seemed one of the less idiotic calls of the night to be fair) with “How about no. Motherfucker!”, and a later cry for “Play something fast” was met with a curt “Why? Everybody does that…”. But when this same crowd rose to it’s feet at the end of The Grand Conjuration, only to be informed by Akerfeldt that the album had one more song to run, Isolation Years, you have to wonder how many were even real Opeth fans?
All of which, of course, was a terrific pity, because musically Opeth were utterly sublime. Honouring their majestic Ghost Reveries album its decade in existence with a run of shows playing the album in its entirety, the Theatre Royal’s stage festooned with morbid candelabra (“With lights from Ikea,” quipped Akerfeldt) acted as the perfect setting as the band kicked into one mighty rendition of Ghost Of Perdition. The Baying Of The Hounds was equal to it, even if it did kickstart the baying of the idiots in the audience, momentarily silenced by the previously never performed live Beneath The Mire, which was as mighty a piece of prog rock as Opeth have ever indulged in. The prog quota kicked on into Atonement, with a stunning keyboard solo from Joakim Svalberg, before Reverie/Harlequin Forest and Hours Of Wealth led to the climactic assault.
Having delivered Ghost Reveries in a manner far more proggy than one recalls from listening to it at the time (maybe that’s just a sign of how things have naturally changed over the years), Akerfeldt led the band straight back after the break into the modern proggy realms of Pale Communion with the equally effervescent Eternal Rains Will Come and Cusp Of Eternity, teasing the more excitable/retarded (delete where applicable) members of the audience with snippets of Closure and Face Of Melinda, before digging into guttural territory with a bombastic The Leper Affinity, retreating back to more complex and progressive realms with Damnation’s *To Rid The Disease, I Feel The Dark from Heritage and Pale Communion*’s Voice Of Treason.
However with the rowdiness beginning to have a detrimental effect on the whole audience, it’s probably just as well they curtailed things with Deliverance’s Master’s Apprentices, returning for one encore of an almighty The Lotus Eater, before basking in well deserved applause.
So in all, a strange night. On the one hand, a masterclass in progressive delivery from Opeth, who are the premier band to combine the cut and thrust of extreme metal with the subtle fluency of progressive music, and indeed in today’s musical spectrum, one of the leading progressive acts of our time. On the other a night rendered uncomfortable at best and downright ruined for others at worst, by such a bellicose and pugnacious group of cretins intent on ruining everyone else’s enjoyment for their own slow-witted sense of fun.
Next time though, slack-jawed muttonheads, do everyone a favour and just don’t bother turning up…