On Tour With   

A day with Opeth

Photo report: Virginie

Photo live report : Lost

The first fans

Paris is a country. At the time of the debate on national identity, the Parisians do not claim to be French but Parisian. I arrive at the Bataclan around 12.00pm. The sky is grey, the weather is dull and there are a dozen of people waiting outside the entrance doors. Most of these people are Parisian yet some of them come from Picardie, Lille and Nancy; some are even from Greece and Spain.

From the outside, the Bataclan venue seems drab and limited. However, once I enter the venue at 3.30pm, I realise that behind this small entrance lies a great theatrical room with bleachers all around it and red velvet cinema chairs. The room is being prepared as I mingle around to get a feel of the working atmosphere here. I see a few people here and there on ladders and pushing boxes around. Others seem more confused as to where to go and what to do. In the meantime, the band comes of stage for their ‘pre-sound check’ before the official sound check. Each member is concentrating on their instrument and plays a few notes.

Luminous rocksacks

The merchandising starts to take place, the meet & greet gifts are ‘thinking’ (see photo), the lights are flashing about and the bar is being fuelled. There is a table near that bar on which there are bottles of Coke, water and fruit juice, and a piece of A4 paper on which is written ‘For The Band Only!’ in black marker pen. So I start to wonder where the tourniquets, single use needles and bottles of alcohol are. As I try to get near the backstage area, I am told that it is not yet my time to go back there, that each band member is busy and that the interviews are done in military timing precision. When it turns 5.30 it is finally my turn. We make our way towards the stage to fetch the keyboard player who is warming up his fingers. There are no rooms available for our interview so we find ourselves sitting on the stage right in front of the meet & greet fans who have been sitting on the balcony for the past ten minutes. After some polite small talk, the keyboard player, cross armed and shy, starts to go with the flow. His English is fluent and pleasant to hear.

Per Wiberg

In honour of the band’s twentieth anniversary, Opeth are doing six exclusive concerts in a few selected cities. Apparently, they hadn’t planned to go on an actual tour: they thought of going to a few small bars instead or something of the sort. Either way, it seems that Per was delighted with the way things turned out.

Basically, Per does not regret a thing and doesn’t want to change anything about the way the last two decades have been. He insists on the fact that the very few regrets are merely ‘details’ (his term). As for his role in the band, it seems that he was selected because of his retro sixties sounds. ‘If they had been looking for a keyboard player specialised in symphonic metal, I would not have auditioned.’ The band wanted to incorporate these sounds in order to stand out from other death metal bands. Vintage sounds and bands are a great influence for Opeth, as much as both black and death metal. According to Per, this sound is what gives the band unique characteristics. If fact it is also a component in his other band Spiritual Beggars. Spritual Beggars put forward the keyboard a lot more which creates a different style (whereas they only make musical arrangements in Opeth), yet the sound is also very vintage.

When asked whether he would have liked to live in another decade, the answer is short and simple: no. ‘I am not part of those people who would have lied to live at another time. Today we are able to enjoy music that was made in the 60s and 70s, as well as music that was made in the 80s and 90s. I live in the right decade!’

Opeth backstage

Shortly after, the meet & greet begins. The people who were lucky enough to it in the velvet chairs each paid 150 euros to get the chance to listen to the sound check, meet the band and get all kinds of goodies: bags, the new version of BlackwaterPark, sparkly VIP passes etc. When the band steps onto the stage, a few shy claps from them are heard. As Mickael makes a signal, nobody gets up, nobody shouts, as in this moment, they are all the embodiment of discretion and total respect. It is true that the band did cheat a little since they had a pre-sound check so the sound is clear and all of the notes are in the right place from the start. Each band member is fully concentrating and adopts an expression of contemplation. They play fragments of their most famous songs in order to condition their sound for tonight. A stocky man appears on stage and approaches each member to talk to them. He seems to be giving them well advised suggestions and they listen to them.

The 70 fans are invited by hoards of 25 to go downstairs to meet the band waiting for them quietly near the merchandising stalls. There will be no improvisation tonight, everything must go as planned and no one can cross that line. I am asked to walk away and make myself discrete because what I am witnessing is none of my business. The instructions are being given in English, away from my ears, yet my eyes aren’t missing a single thing. Off goes each group one after the next in an orderly fashion, with each person begging for a picture and feeling helpless and discarded as they are pushed towards the exit. Ten minutes have gone by already. Each group seems identical to the next, however, during the fourth group I go outside to hear about some people’s impressions. A tall Nordic man smiles at me. He is delighted and shows me his bag with the Opeth logo on it containing the latest edition of Blackwater Park which he got signed twice, just in case. You never know.

Martin Mendez (basse)

When I make my way into the room half an hour before the doors open, the band has disappeared backstage. I walk towards the grey plastered walls and dark spiral staircase leading to the backstage area. On the first floor, Martin, the bassist, is dreamily smoking a cigarette whilst sitting in front of the manager. I introduce myself to the manager and when he asks me a question, I hardly understand him because his strong Scottish accent and unfriendliness. I walk away and go into the lounge area backstage. I introduce myself to the band, which in actual fact had no idea of what my job entailed. The keyboard player, Per, is relaxing with one foot on the table and his arms crossed behind his head. I ask them how they feel before a concert this size and they tell me that they are hungry, really hungry! I feel like I am in the way, so I go back downstairs to let them concentrate. The members of Opeth are smiley, focused and like most Swede, naturally cold natured.

Time for Blackwater Park, whole and without breaks

The room is in darkness and the concert begins at 7-7.30 pm. The sound is very loud yet clear. The whole of the Blackwater Park album is being played during the first half of the show. Mickael does not say a word or make any form of expression. In this first act, it is only the music that is put forward and only a few seconds separate each track, yet the album flows well. ‘Back in 15 minutes’ is what we are told at the end of Blackwater Park.

« Isn’t it weird not to hear us? »

Twenty minutes later, the heat increases and the condensation on the walls becomes almost unbearable. The second part starts with ‘Forest Of October’: ‘So isn’t it weird not to hear us between songs? Just music…’. After the announcing of the second song ‘Advent’, Mickael asks the crowd: ‘Have you got a melodic death metal band? Everyone has one. My mum has one’. ‘April Ethereal’ plays next, ‘The Moor’ follows much to the joy of many and suddenly, a letter is thrown on stage. Mickael picks it up and reads: ‘To my God, sex beast… Thank you, I’ll read that later with a beer’. The front man presents the song ‘Wreath’ by saying ‘For some this is noise, for us this is sex’. This is followed by ‘Hope Leaves’ and ‘Reverue/Harlequin Forest’. To end this fantastic concert and its surprising set list is the song ‘The Lotus Eater’.

A surprising set list

As people are mingling near the merchandising stalls, the roadies are already unloading the stage. The fans are told to hurry up in order for everyone to be rushed out.

I am finally outside. A security guard boasts about having thrown a girl out two weeks ago and having pushed her straight into a bus. At this point I was sure, Opeth’s poetry was over.

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