Opeth, Southern Empire @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide 10/12/2019

Opeth are a musician’s dream. The time changes, the atmosphere and the dynamism of their songs are the template of prog metal that everyone else follows, for good reason. Tonight, in a serene Thebarton Theatre, the Swedes will entertain the crowd for two hours of musical diversity.

Opening tonight is Southern Empire, a South Australian prog metal supergroup of sorts. Formed by keyboardist Sean Timms – resplendent in red satin Sgt Pepper’s jacket – from the ashes of Unitopia, Southern Empire have a technical prowess that is appreciated by the early arrived audience. Each band member is given the opportunity to show what the bring to the music whether it’s Daniel Lopresto vocal range or Jez Martin’s rumbling bass underpinning the good ship Southern Empire.

The venue is set up as all seater for the night, with some audience members bringing with them a pair of binoculars, a trait harking back to nights at the opera. A night at the opera, especially a metal version, is a great way to describe Opeth. They are performers of a fine art, every song creating an ambience as they weave through the set, like savouring a fine wine.

The atmospheric beginning of the set starts with Svekets Prins however when Leper Affinity launches, the crowd really get moving. Watching Opeth is akin to watching an orchestra perform, it’s so tight and needs to be as they take you through a journey of sounds complete with epic solos and drum fills.

The diversity of the band is evident in Hjartat Vet Vad, with piano solo and a galloping riff of a groove before front man Mikael Akerfeldt talks to the crowd. He actually implores the crowd to stand up claiming the chairs were not his idea and the hardy souls down the front follow suit accordingly.

Akerfeldt is a great story teller in that understated Scandinavian way, displaying his dry humour and wit. He engages in some comedic barbs and even attempts a few riffs from songs not prepared, in what is a display on not only his technical brilliance but also that it’s not always serious at an Opeth show.

Nepenthe breaks into jazz fusion as the smoke on stage coming from Fredrik Akesson’s quick fire solo lights up while Moon Above/ Sun Below brings the folk music to evenings proceedings. Hope Leaves meanwhile is beautifully performed with an elegant guitar arrangement that plays to the heart and soul.

Leaving with Sorceress which has a meaty riff before ending with Deliverance the crowd rush to the front, breaking the shackles of the seating arrangement. Opeth have delivered a night of technical virtuosity, pulled on the heartstrings and made you laugh out loud. A bit like a night at the opera then.

Live Review By Iain McCallum

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