Artist: Opeth
Supporting: Katatonia
Date: October 18th, 2011
Location: San Francisco
Venue: The Warfield
Tour: Heritage North American Tour 2011

Remarks: You know it's gonna be a good concert when the venue is already packed with 30 minutes until the opening band comes on. Quite a turnout for Opeth and quite a bit of energy running through the crowd this night. Fellow Swedes and friend of the band, Katatonia were up first though. I was pleasantly impressed with these guys. Their music drifted between heavy to atmospheric and many things in between, but it always felt like a natural progression in the song, never forced. Their heavier riffs and toned back tempos gave the music that dark, brooding feel but somehow not straying into the gloomy and depressing territory. Although Jonas Renkse, the vocalist, didn't appear to have a face and had an interesting way of using the mic stand, his clean, powerful vocals, always penetrated through the other instruments.

Once Katatonia cleared the stage and the giant backdrop for Opeth started to rise up, the excitement level went through the roof. They also had several poster stands with the two devil faces at the bottom of the Heritage album art adorning the stage. Once the show got underway and they were hit with UV light, a giant stylized O from the Opeth logo shone through; very badass touch to the stage. These five guys were very fluid on stage. Loud, soft, acoustic, or heavy, they were on top of it all. They knew when to push and went to pull, when to pander to the crowd and when to rock the hell out. I found that night, that Mikael is quite an amusing frontman. He spent his time enjoying interacting with the audience, telling amusing stories, making witty retorts to people yelling, and just having a good time; all of course while being a badass musician. Interestingly, the entire concert was devoid of any growls from him; not that I'm complaining since I think he has a great clean singing voice. It's great that they wanted to shake things up and showcase this overlooked side to them, while still being able to put on a great, and satisfying show to the audience.

I was fortunate enough to be on the left side so I got a great view of pretty much everyone, but especially Mikael, Fredrik, and Joakim. Joakim was great up top surrounded by keyboards and was on backing vocals for most of the songs. When the three of them went for a three part harmony though, they absolutely nailed it perfectly. Both Mikael and Fredrik are quite accomplished guitarists and it was sweet to see both of them play, as they tended to play quite different parts.

Katatonia's Setlist:
(Not quite sure if this is accurate as there's a little debate on, so take it for what you will.)

Ghost Of The Sun
The Longest Year
We Must Bury You
My Twin
Wait Outside

Opeth's Setlist:

The Devil's Orchard (Great opening track which gave a good taste of what's to come. A lot of progressive and mellow parts with that hint of heaviness lingering in the background.)
I Feel the Dark (The band waste no time here and launches right into this song. Fredrik switches over to an acoustic guitar for this song, but the sweet sopt is right in the middle when the more aggressive riffs start to kick in against Mikael and Joakim's harmonies.)
Face of Melinda (To the crowd's pleasure, Mikael tells us they're going back to play an older song from Still Life. Fittingly, the figure on the front of Still Life (Melinda?) also appears slightly hidden on the front of Heritage. Once again, we get that mellow start until that big heavy kick towards the middle of the song.)
Porcelain Heart (If there's a great example of Opeth being brutal and heavy without a single growl, this would be the song. Starting off with that awesome riff before easing up and giving us a nice vocal back and forth between Mikael and Joakim. The cycle of heavy to mellow repeats a few times which was great for the energy in the crowd; you know that heavy riff is coming back and you're on edge waiting for it to blast through the speakers again. Within the song, we did get a nice little mini drum solo by the talented Axe!)
Pyre (An interesting track that didn't actually make it on to Heritage. It's a very mellow, acoustic-y song; very simple and refined, no real surprises in store. It served as nice segueway into the acoustic set.)
The Throat of Winter (Mikael and Fredrik switch over to acoustic guitars for the official "acoustic set." Yet another obscure song choice, this time coming from the God Of War 3 Blood & Metal EP. I'm not sure how they did it, but it felt a lot different from the studio version. I actually enjoyed this one a lot. I also believe this was one of the only keyboard solos we got during the night.)
Patterns in the Ivy II (Time for an even calmer song, this time from Blackwater Park. If anything, it was a great moment for Mikael's voice to shine, along with some more great harmony moments.)
Harvest (So they didn't officially play this one, but it was more of a band-audience interaction moment. As Mikael is trying to introduce the next song, people are screaming out song names. Two girls in the front scream out loudly, "Harvest!" to which Mikael replies, "You know what? You fucking sing it!" After that, he cuts us a deal, he'll play the chorus for us if we sing it. First, he wants to make sure we can sing, making us sing low, then high, only for him to tell us he's not really impressed! He also warns us that there are three snipers watching for people who don't sing. A little warm up, then one more command, "Ready... and fucking loud now!" As he plays, the audience comes together and belts out the chorus while the other band members join in. Very cool moment of the show! Afterwards, Mikael ruins the chorus for us by telling us his misheard lyrics moment, which you need to hear to believe. He wasn't lying though, I really can't hear the original lyrics anymore!)

Closure (Much cheering and applause breaks out when Mikael mentions the song title. I do recall hearing lots of the crowd still singing alone, even as the song grew louder and more layered. Once against, they picked a great song to start transitioning back to heavier stuff.)
Slither (Mikael takes a moment to tell us of how inspirational Dio was to him, and how devastated he was when he learned of his passing. He then tells us that he took some time to collect his thoughts and write a song in memory of him. Admittedly, it came out sounding very much in the vein of Rainbow. Even if he hadn't said that, once they started playing, I would've made the connection immediately. Although the vocals lack that Dio-esque power, the guitar had a very rocking, driving Blackmore riff to it. If anything, I felt it sounded quite similar to Kill The King. Regardless, it was a very energetic, rocking song!)
A Fair Judgement (A favorite of mine, with a really awesome guitar solo. Once again, giving that big push and pull vibe of heavy and mellow. I really do like that forceful riff in the song though!)
Hex Omega (A very poplar, and very brutally heavy song to finish out the regular set!)

Folklore (This was an interesting way to end the evening. While not exactly a powerful closer, it really had that mix of everything, much like how they started with The Devil's Orchard. I really like that grooving riff that closed out the song.)

As we walked out, I did hear some murmurings about the lack of growls and death metal songs. All in all, I believe the reception the concert was largely positive, to which I must agree. It was a refreshing setlist to hear, and probably more so for the band to play.

We stuck around again to meet some of the guys with I'd say about 20 other people. This time, we had to contend with a lot more homeless, crazies, and druggies while we waited. We were even treated to a sidewalk wrestling match between a small female bouncer and some other random lady who wouldn't listen to any of the bouncers. She came back later with some guy in a wheelchair before both of them were carted off by policemen who were passing by; they literally dragged the guy in the wheelchair by his hood, ha! Members of Katatonia pass by and went into their bus to little reaction by the crowd. As Daniel, the drummer for Katatonia, passed by, his security escort proclaims that we are "the calmest fucking crowd he's had to watch." Apparently, everyone is usually up against the barrier making a bunch of noise, but we are all 10 feet back, talking amongst ourselves. Daniel looks at us, then the bouncer, and tells us, that we should all try this again and do it right. The bouncer looks at him and asks, "You wanna do this over?" to which Daniel says yeah, and starts walking back down the street then back into The Warfield, to much laughter and confusion by us. Five seconds later, he walks back out, arms in the air, while we all scream, laugh, and clap for him. Mikael comes out moments later and has a confused look on his face, wondering what is going on. Daniel laughs at us and says, "Much better." Seeing how Mikael is now out here, he gets totally ignored as he walks past us and gets on to his bus. Oops!

Mikael was great, still cracking jokes and laughing with us as he signs autographs and takes pictures. As I had him my open booklet for "The Human Equation," he looks at all the faces and says, "Oh man... Ayreon?" I tell him, "Yup, I'm on a quest to fill this page with autographs." He chuckles and wishes me good luck as he signs next to his face, telling me that I better be ready to hop a plane to Holland and the rest of Europe. I even snagged a picture with him! He was very cool, quite a well spoken guy! Not too long after that, Martin and Fredrik wander over, they're exactly as social as Mikael, but they were both still kind enough to sign stuff and take pictures. After that, the crowd kinda dispersed, so I'm not sure if Axe or Joakim made it out. Regardless, they were very cool guys and put on a damn good concert!

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