Opeth At Their Best

Twenty-two years of going to metal gigs and I've never bought a mug from the merchandise table. If truth be told I rarely buy merchandise anymore. It's overpriced and I have far too many metal shirts in the wardrobe to justify buying any more band branded stuff. But when faced with an almost gluttony of brilliantly designed t-shirts (£6 cheaper than Alterbridge…justify that Alterbridge!), scarves, hats, wristbands and baby bibs, I couldn't resist the temptation of a heat sensitive mug. While I was contemplating how to get a how brew going in the Manchester Academy I was stuck on where to put it. What do you do with a mug at a gig? Thankfully, I've lost weight and it managed to fit into my pocket (handle and all). Dilemma over, a packed Academy witnessed the lights go down and Opeth wandered onto the stage.

'Heir Apparent' opened the set and the most significant aspect was the near perfect sound. Last time at the Academy it was muffled and bass heavy, this time it was crisp and balanced. Opeth command a loyal fanbase, a fanbase that is arguably more mature in a chronological sense than a mental attitude capacity, and so the frantic mosh pits and metal loons were almost absent. Instead, it is hundreds of metal fans stood, bobbing, nodding and watching Opeth's brilliant metal symphonies unwind in front of them. A fantastic version of 'The Grand Conjecture' followed. It was almost spellbinding as its complexity was made to look easy by the musicians on stage.

Mikael Akerfeldt was in his usual low key but witty mood with his post song banter. He mentioned his voice was going to sound like a 'good' Paul Rogers and it was obvious he had a problem as he took regular water breaks. Ever the trooper he managed to growl and sing his way through the brilliant 'Deliverance', which got the biggest cheer of the night. They could still be playing the last section now and we'd still be stood there lapping it up. 'The Lotus Eater' was the other song from the latest album sounding as subtle and dynamic as it does on the record. New guitarist, ex Arch Enemy Fredrik Akesson, looks to have slotted into the Opeth camp with relative ease as the band sounded extremely tight.

After forty minutes Akerfeldt announced that they were about to play the last song. Initially I was confused until I checked my watch and realised it wasn't forty minutes but actually seventy. That's the sign of a good gig. If time can pass without you noticing it then the band have done their job, unless, of course, one of their roadies had altered everyone's watch and mobile phone whilst we weren't looking. 'Demon Of the Fall' and the encore 'The Drapery Falls' finished off a wonderful but curfew compliant set. But I was completely satisfied and trudged back into the cold and rain with mug in hand and an even greater desire to get a hot brew on. (The 'peth' in Opeth appears when you pour hot water in it incase you were wondering, pic on my profile.)