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Live Reviews : Opeth @ Sydney Opera House, Sydney 06/02/2017

By on February 8, 2017

Images: John Raptis
Words: Rod Whitfield

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This is really quite a surreal feeling. I have never actually been inside the hallowed house before, and seeing one of my all time favourite bands whilst simultaneously breaking my Opera House cherry is a truly wondrous moment. It’s quite astounding to believe that this is actually happening.


Outside, pre-show dinner and many drinks are consumed. The weather is steamily humid but the mood is festive. Joyous. A massive Norwegian cruise ship backs ponderously and painstakingly out of Circular Quay, against the epic backdrop of Sydney’s famous bridge. Anticipation is intermingled with a sense of celebration, a feeling that this may actually be the one and only time this will happen, a need to savour every moment. Black band t-shirts and ear to ear smiles are visible as far as the eye can see. The rock and metal hordes have descended upon the iconic venue for one of the very few times in its almost half a century of existence.

Inside, there is a brief moment to drink in the glory and magnificence of this venue before the band roars to life. You can feel the history in the wood, and hear the echoes of all the famous performers who have graced the stage here over the years.

Opening in relatively low key fashion, the band choose the title track from their latest album Sorceress, the most recent in a series of three more 70s prog rock flavoured albums. However, they soon get heavy with a majestic version of Ghost of Perdition and the bludgeoning Demon of the Fall. For a band who have gone through such a comprehensive change in style and sound in recent times, the older and newer songs sit seamlessly together. The first set is a dynamic tour de force, a sumptuous selection of tracks from the last 20 years of their illustrious back catalogue.


Initially, the show has a slightly different vibe, being in such a civilised venue, a venue as even Akerfeldt himself stated was ‘not designed for death metal’, but it hardly matters when the acoustics are so sweet. And ultimately, by the end, the crowd is on its collective feet (at the urging of Akerfeldt, who told us not to be a bunch of lazy c*nts. I wonder of this is the first time the ‘c’ word has been used on stage here?) and as rowdy as you can get in such a place.

After a very short breather, the band return for a second set, which turns out to be another tasty, tasteful choice of tunes from the classic, simultaneously released Deliverance and Damnation albums. Again, there is an overwhelmingly massive contrast between these two records, one being bone crunchingly heavy and the other being the softest, most ambient and ethereal music this band has ever created in its career. But, once again, the effect and the juxtaposition of the two seemingly disparate works are as smooth and coherent as can be imagined.

One of the great bonuses of seeing Opeth live is the between-song banter of Akerfeldt. He is really quite hilarious, his stories, his off the cuff one-liners and his ‘in his stride’ handling of the many hecklers that their shows seem to throw up are wonderful to behold. The man needs to take up a part time career in standup comedy.

As the final strains of the monumental Deliverance fade away and the band take their final bows, there is a feeling amongst the crowd that we had just witnessed something truly special, that an opportunity for a potentially once in a lifetime experience had been seized by the 5500 souls who had had the forethought and good fortune to attain access to this event.

I would love to see this happen again one day, but if it doesn’t, this night is now stored joyously in my memory banks til my final moment upon this earth.


Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine,, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.