Saturday, September 20, 2008

Live 9.18.8 part two: Opeth at Nokia Theater

So when last we checked in, I was rushing up from the Hold Steady taping on Chambers St up to Nokia to meet up with Paul and the SLers as well as my boy Mario at Nokia. For those of you that keep track of things, ten minutes on the Surly and I was locking the ride up out front. Now I like metal, always have, but the cookie monster vocal end of things and the nine hour song have lost some of their luster in my old age but when Mario and Paul get on your ass to see the metal, you toe the line, shut up and show up.

While I don't get above 23rd Street much, I like the Nokia Theater a lot. The staff are great, things run on time, plus they are Union and you have to be done by 11:30pm. That's what I call old guy friendly. I came in on the second song to a haze of weed smoke and a fucking rabid crowd eating up every damn note. While I was waiting for the text to hook up with the crew, I took stock of some of my favorite phenomenae at metal shows.

1. Metal Chicks
Not my favorite demographic (any more at least) but still spectacular. This crowd was a little bit more Dream Theater (forum topic: gayest prog metal name ever?) than the Maiden shows of my youth, but I was pleased that the hot metal ladies still favor the ripped fishnets, and not just on their legs. I wouldn't want to bring them home to Mama, but was that really my intention?

2. Fat Dudes
How is that metal attracts the fattest fans ever? I'm sure our hip-hop friends probably hold their own in that regard, but I believe that we may have eugenics to blame for that. That said, how do these behemoths make it out to the shows? Mental note: Doritos crumbs still show up on black t-shirts.

3. Kids who went with their parents
Back in the day, I was one of those kids, although I rarely brought friends (as I had few). This night, there were two or three packs of them, all trying to stay as far as possible from the permissive parent that brought them. One was in full metal regalia, including makeup. His Dad I believe actually was wearing half-glasses. Ah, memories!

So I heard from Mario first, and as luck would have it, it was a two drummer hang, as Vagina Panther drummer Trent was out as well. This is often a good time. As I was trying to fnd them, I encountered a yet unexperienced phenomenon: The Chewbacca Brothers. Who are the brothers you ask? Merely two gents that I didn't have the nerve to turn around and actually look at who were peppering the songs with their own wookie vocals, even if the Opeth song at the time didn't feature them. Even better, no one in the crowd seemed to care. Such a tolerant lot. I really need to take in more metal.

So I met Mario and Trent and caught up. Before we get into the delights therein, some background is in order regarding our Swedish friends. Opeth play the melodic Swedish death metal, which means we get death grunts as well as real singing, some chug, but a lot more shred. To give you a sense of the adulation these kids get, Opeth played with the silly chops-meisters Dream Theater on a recent NYC show and there were near-riots when someone forgot to ride the fader up during sing Mikael Akerfeldt guest spot. I probably wouldn't have rioted, but after this show, I can see why they would.

Opeth don't make it to this side of the pond that often. They first got together in '89, but didn't actually release a record until '95. The band moved away from their death metal roots with their first record, Orchid, recorded with the mighty Dan Swano. They incorporated many elements heretofor unknown in the genre, like acoustic guitars and vocals that were actually sung, rather than death grunted. It got Opeth a lot of notice, even if label ridiculousness delayed the record's release and kept it confined to Europe. Eventually, the band signed to Century Media, and gained more and more notoriety, both for chart placement in the EU and US as well as for their defying convention at every turn, releasing acoustic and electric records simulataneously and playing hundreds of shows yearly, even in heretofor untapped markets like the Middle East. Recent years have found them signing to Roadrunner and touring on the Dave Mustaine curated Gigantour. 2008 found them releasing Watershed to large acclaim and the hugely successful tour you're reading about at present.

Opeth are a hell of a band. In recent years, ex-Arch Enemy fretmelter Frederik Akesson has stepped into the fold. The man is no joke. There are many Paul Reed Smith's being wielded by the franchise. Unlike their Swedish compatriot Yngwie Malmsteen, the stage is pretty spartan, although the shred purveyed is no less formidable. I can't say I'm all that familiar with their catalog, but every song was as impressive as it was rabidly received. As much as Mario and I enjoyed it, I have to say that we probably didn't enjoy is as much as the interpretive dancers to our right that we got to enjoy for the duration of the show. Man, do I hope that the photos/video that Mario shot comes out, as there were some pretty classic moves being displayed by the trio of shut-ins to our left. They were the frosting on the beater for the evening, tied only with the bit of Whitesnake that Akerfelt played to commemorate their adulation from UK's Classic Rock magazine, where they appear to competing with Coverdale, The Black Crowes and other for Best Album awards in 2008. Judging by this show, it looks like Sweden may be bringing home the gold this year.

Thanks to Paul and Mario for harassing me into going and the good folk of Opeth for rocking my ass in a proper fashion. Buy Opeth's most recent record Watershed here and praise the metal gods for providing quality shred in 2008.

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