Yesterday was one of three special concerts that Opeth is playing in the United States. Luckily, one of those shows is at the Chicago House of Blues, about an hour north and where I’ve seen them twice before. To be honest, I had my misgivings ever since S4R told me about it. After all, Opeth is recently signed on to a major American label better known for shitty acts like Slipknot. Their first album on that label, Ghost Reveries, was a mixed bag in my estimation, but that is neither here nor there.
But like I said, I ended up in the possession of a ticket by way of an old friend, Nick, that I haven’t really talked to in forever (and I wasn’t sure he even liked Opeth anymore). He suddenly decided that he was going to buy me a ticket for my birthday, admittedly a pretty sweet gesture. I asked him how we’d get there, and he volunteered to drive, citing the previous occasions that he’d driven to the House of Blues. I am a paranoid freak when it comes to navigation, so I worked assurance out of him, and was finally satisfied that he knew where he was going. His friend would be coming along, and he testified to the friend’s character.
I should have taken it as an omen when they were 45 minutes late. Still, we had padded our schedule, and so I wasn’t overly concerned. In my downtime, I made coffee (I was running on about four hours of sleep thanks to a bout of insomnia this past week), and they rolled up at 5:15.
If the lateness wasn’t an omen, the fact that Nick’s friend had his feet resting on a case of Budweiser and an open can held below the windowline should have sent off klaxons in my skull. Now, I should stress that Nick—who was driving—was not drinking, but to be sure, this fact didn’t make the situation any more illegal. By the time I saw the beer, however, it was too late to do anything. The friend nursed that single beer for the entire trip, so I could have done little more than encourage him to be inconspicuous, which he was—no doubt a sixth sense gained from a long and rich history of illicit activity.
And oh! Illicit activity! One of the reasons that Nick and I grew apart in high school is that he became the sort of person—one among veritable legions—for whom the pinnacle of living was smoking marijuana or drinking lots of booze. Self-restraint was never one of his virtues, and it was perhaps charming—or at least amusing—when he was 10 and self-control involved perhaps not making an effort to fart in my vicinity. Once it came to his throng of lusty female friends1 and whole cases of beer or daily tokes with his pothead friends, I’m not ashamed to admit that I very quickly gravitated towards my other friends, the ones who drink coffee and listen to King Crimson instead. Sure, it’s a geek’s life, but it’s served me well.
This is all a very roundabout way of saying that even though I was excited to be seeing Opeth, I felt strange and alien in a car with two people whose conversation centered around how much they missed pot and who “fucked” who. It was a like a soap opera with hairier nuts.
2/3 of the way there, Nick announces that he forgot to print off directions from MapQuest. “MapQuest?” I say from the backseat, The Police’s “Roxanne” blaring in my ear. “I thought you knew the way!”
“I do,” he responded, turning down the volume only slightly. “I just don’t know how to get there.”
To make a long and tangential story short2, we took the wrong exit, which turned out to be fortuitous because the real exit was backed up to a standstill. Why there were that many people going into Chicago on a Thursday night at 6pm was and remains a mystery. At any rate, a call to Nick’s friend gave us working directions to the House of Blues (with Nick protesting the whole time that it is “easy to get to”), and then Nick promptly drove the wrong way down a busy one-way thoroughfare, almost hitting a taxi.
Now, I know you’re thinking to yourself, “What a boneheaded thing to do!” However, I am somewhat sympathetic to his plight because I can only imagine how nervewracking it must have been to be semi-lost in Chicago at dusk. Still, it is somewhat annoying that my shouts of “TURN RIGHT! TURN RIGHT! GODDAMMITTURNRIGHTYOUCRAZYFUCK!” went entirely unheeded.
The line was already stretched around the building to midway across the river by the time we got there. And it was cold. I was wearing a pretty warm sweater, but had refrained from bringing my leather jacket because I assumed that the venue would at some point be both sweltering and filled with smoke. The three of us suffered in the cold for a good fifteen minutes, but in the end I was glad. The venue was smoke-free3 but it was hot. It was hot because it was packed with people. It was packed with people because it was oversold.
You see, for this show they decided to call it “seated,” which meant that the pit was filled with a paltry hundred or so folding chairs, so the largest space in the theater held a fraction of its normal capacity. Everyone else packed tighter and tighter around the semicircle, pinched against the bars, damn near hanging off the balcony. I assume that it was seated to avoid moshing (the other shows weren’t, though…), and perhaps that’s a good thing: with the class of people the concert appeared to attract, it would have been a Bosch canvas.
That’s not really fair of me, I suppose: the majority of the fans were probably well-mannered and quiet. Many of the oldschool, fan-since-Orchid fans might be scarily-bearded misanthropes, but I generally remember being—again, for the most part—well-behaved during previous shows. This time, well, I’m not sure if it was just their expaning popularity in general, or the new Roadrunner fanbase, or if we were just spectacularly unlucky, but there were some real douchebags in the audience. It was like a frat party: oversexed men slamming beer after beer and punctuating each song with catcalls or “Opeeeeeeeeeeeth!” in their deepest growl. These people are the most pathetic of them all, and they congregated on the balcony especially. One diminuitive mouth-breathing specimen in a worn baseball cap, clutching his beer like a phallus, decided that he would not only sing along with Mikael on a permanent basis, but he was vocalize the guitar parts as well, in sets of piercing “Weeeep! Wowow woooooo!” It took all my strength not to Royal Rumble him down to the floor below. His nearest neighbor was one of the growlers, apparently desperate for either recognition from the band (the deification of Mikael by fans is ridiculous), thinking that such an obvious display of manhood reflected positively on the size of his junk and therefore his likelihood to leave there with a girl. This is why I don’t really like heavy metal anymore: it can’t get away from the hyperbole and the comically exaggerated behavior of both its performers (sometimes) and its fans (usually). Who the hell else would growl things at the band during quiet sections?
Anyway, the setlist was (as I recall it) as follows
- Under the Weeping Moon
- The Night and the Silent Water
- The Amen Corner
- White Cluster
- The Leper Affinity
- A Fair Judgment
- Ghosts of Perdition
- The Baying of the Hounds
- The Grand Conjuration
I’m not sure about the encore because we left early to beat traffic. The last Opeth concert I went to, on the Deliverance tour, didn’t have an encore, and I wasn’t sure what to expect this time. After all, they’d been playing for close to 2.5 hours already, and I saw them handing stuff to the audience, so I assumed that no more music was forthcoming. And anyway, I’m sure that if they played “Demon of the Fall,” some jackoff would shout during my favorite part anyway.
I didn’t buy any obscenely-priced alcohol, but I did get gouged on a $30 “Chronology” t-shirt because I am a filthy, filthy whore. *sigh*
- Speaking of illicit activity…[↩]
- see: “paralipsis”[↩]
- All of Chicago is smoke-free now, something I’d forgotten[↩]
- Well, except for “The Grand Conjuration,” which is a stinker of a song and was a poor choice to close with[↩]
- Axenrot was filling in for Lopez, and he did an excellent job. The keyboardist was tits on a bull; but then, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why they decided to make him a full member to begin with. They did, after all, rail against cheesy keyboards just a few years ago[↩]