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Graveyard: two Marshall combos. A big ol' Orange bass amp. Enough tubs to shuffle greasy grooves with skins to spare. Gorgeous logo. I sat in the balcony, beer in hand, ready to hear this band rock my face off. By all measures, we were primed for a good time.

As the lights went down, two Gibson guitars appeared. They were affixed to iconic looking rockers. Brimming with anticipation, I awaited the impending analog assault. There is nothing better than Marshalls on ten.

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I pledged to withhold my judgements of the first few songs for your best interests, dear readers. I find that a band can often surprise later in their set. This was not the case with Graveyard. The material was unmemorable. I enjoyed the third song of the set, "Uncomfortably Numb," for a few select moments. Listeners may note the conspicuous similarity to Skynyrd's "Simple Man." Other tunes delved into a near swamp rock groove, but soon backed off to a less adventurous space.

That is a good metaphor for the band. It's as if a tight classic rock cover band showed up and decided to play originals. Problem was, their originals didn't have the nostalgic benefit of time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Next up: Opeth. It's a foregone conclusion that Opeth shows have something for everyone. This was no exception. Classics, soon to be classics, growls, clean singing, amazing light show, poop jokes, vintage keyed instruments. This show was an Opeth fan's wet dream.

The show was not without novelty. The In Cauda Venenum tour marks the first time the band has performed songs written and sung in Swedish. I dare say it marks the first time 95% of people in the venue have heard a song in Swedish, myself included. You can hear these tunes on the new album, but there is something magical about watching Mikael sing them. It brought a softness and sweetness to the vocals that left me gobsmacked.

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There is something that we need to address. Something of a controversy in the fandom; Mikael's new hat. He now sports a black bolero tipped back on his head. He joked that he found it in an old lady boutique in Las Vegas and that ostensibly he doesn't have to comb his hair. We can assume this is 50/50 serious/joke. I'll let you form your own opinions on this utterly inconsequential topic. Suffice it to say, it's a hat and he wears it well. Let's move on.

Lights and atmosphere are a huge part of any Opeth performance. Three risers supported the keys, drums, and bass. Each had screens in front which supplemented the video on the enormous backdrop. We took an adventure through all manner of atmospheric visuals; stormy seas, nebulae, oceans of stars. Lights obliterated our retinas with pleasing regularity and interesting patterns. What appeared to be small Edison bulbs were scattered among the set pieces. Each offering a warm and familiar orange glow during the gentler passages.

The setlist included some crowd favorites: "The Leper Affinity," "Moon Above Sun Below," and "Deliverance." This band's back catalog is enormous and this set provided a healthy balance. As you may know, there are those out there who are polarized between "growls only" and "clean vocals only." You and I can both agree that the dichotomy is both unnecessary and silly. Still, the band manages to tiptoe the fine line between the two camps to keep everyone satisfied. The seasoned vets delivered a sonically perfect rendition of each tune. That's a given!

I came away from this experience with a new appreciation for Opeth as performers. I'd never been more than a casual fan of the band and didn't have any particular allegiance. It's safe to say that I have been missing out on some incredible experiences. This is one I won't soon forget.

-- Kevin O'Donnell

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The Opeth tour continues. Dates below:

Feb 17 – The Palladium – Worcester, MA
Feb 18 – MTelus – Montreal, QC
Feb 19 – Rebel – Toronto, ON
Feb 21 – Apollo Theater – New York, NY
Feb 22 – Apollo Theater – New York, NY
Feb 23 – The Fillmore Silver Spring – Silver Spring, MD
Feb 25 – Egyptian Room at Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN
Feb 26 – Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN*
Feb 28 – House of Blues – Houston, TX
Feb 29 – The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory – Irving , TX
Mar 01 – Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland – Kansas City, MO*
Mar 02 – The Mission Ballroom – Denver, CO
Mar 04 – Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA
*No Graveyard

Bonus: read Jon Rosenthal's interview with Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt reflecting on Still Life.

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