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On a normal Friday afternoon while at work, out of the blue, I receive a message from Joseph Schafer, offering me a chance to pinch hit for Invisible Oranges and cover the first of Opeth’s two appearances on successive nights in Los Angeles, celebrating the band’s 25th anniversary on their current tour. Naturally, I jumped at the offer and very quickly made plans to attend the Saturday night show at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. There would not be an opening band, and Opeth would play two full sets. The first set would consist of the album Ghost Reveries, played in its entirety, and, after a short intermission, a second set of greatest hits.

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The Orpheum Theatre is a beautiful theater in the downtown theater district of Los Angeles, dating back to the late 1920s. It is adorned with beautiful mosaics and reliefs, the lobby is enhanced with marble, the chandeliers are magnificent, and the lounge features comfortable chairs, couches, and wood paneling. This theater is a celebration of show business, right in the heart of the entertainment industry.

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However, the theater is not really known for the staging of performances in heavy metal. For example, I’ve been to just about every concert venue in the Los Angeles area, from the huge arenas to the hole in the wall bars with a capacity of 20 people, and I’ve never attended a show at the Orpheum. The theater is an attraction all by itself, and would provide the perfect setting for one of the most admired bands in extreme heavy metal.

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OK, Opeth aren’t really extreme anymore and, truth be told, they’re not my favorite band. I only have a passing familiarity with most of the band’s material; but, I’ve never seen them live, so I jumped at the chance offered to me.

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The Orpheum was packed when I arrived, and the merchandise line was long. I managed to get a high quality shirt with the Ghost Reveries album artwork, and I made my way to my seat. I had a photographer’s pass for this show, but there was no photo pit made available. My seat was dead center of the theater, about 15 rows deep, so, I figured I would make do.

Opeth took the stage to thunderous applause, and immediately launched into “Ghost Of Perdition.” The band sounded immense and crystal clear, and the lighting that accompanied them was perfectly executed with a specific color palette of pink, white, and a touch of lavender. Mikael Åkerfeldt is well known as an engaging frontman, but he kept the banter to a minimum throughout the performance of Ghost Reveries. Highlights included “Atonement,” which was accompanied by a keyboard solo from Joakim Svalberg, and a lead guitar solo from Fredrik Åkesson.

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After a short intermission, Opeth returned to the stage and loosened up considerably. The lighting scheme had also noticeably changed, with much more prominent, bright lights in a range of colors. Most of the material played in the second set was culled from recent albums, but Opeth reached back to Blackwater Park with “The Leper Affinity.” After concluding the song, Åkerfeldt essentially opened up the floor to requests from the crowd. Just by strumming the guitar, he played, briefly, snippets from “Harvest,” “Bleak,” and “Demon Of The Fall.” As he was strumming and joking with the crowd, he briefly toyed with the opening of “Closer To The Heart” by Rush. I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear that, as the fan base of Opeth largely exhibits the same devotion to their chosen band as do fans of Rush. As a casual fan, I sort of curmudgeonly thought that this interlude went on for about five minutes too long, but this was obviously a treat for devoted fans. Soon after, Opeth closed out the evening with “Master’s Apprentices” and “The Lotus Eater.”

This was a great show, and had Opeth decided to play more than a handful of dates, fans would have gotten just about everything that they could possibly ask for from a 25th anniversary tour. As for myself, I obviously need to go back, do my homework, and get more familiar with Opeth’s complete catalogue.

Special thanks to Joseph Schafer.

—Dave Schalek

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