Attending this show was a no brainer. When word got out that Opeth and Katatonia (who have a pretty significant shared past) were touring together this was a must see. Now there were a couple of firsts for me on this event. This was my first concert at the Warfield in San Francisco and secondly this was also my first time seeing Katatonia live. I had opportunity to see them before but circumstances didn’t allow for it. So needless to say I was on it for the presale. I would have had this posted sooner but I was waiting to see if any of the pics I took were worth a shit on a borrowed camera and apparently only one was so I’m going to have borrow some materials from other people from time to time.
Here’s a bit about the Warfield since I mentioned it was my first time there. It’s a very nice venue that was built in 1922 and sits at the heart of the Mission District. It’s too bad it’s surrounded now by just the dregs of society. You’ve got your porn shops and theaters around it and the drug addicts bumming change and the stench of shit in alleys on the way there if you’re walking. But once you’re inside it looks like a blast from the past with winding staircases that go up to the balcony seating and a spacious floor set up. I don’t believe there was a bad view in the whole place and the sound is really amazing.
Now I technically was there with a couple of other people, one being Draeden and the other is my co worker, Brian, who has posted a few things in the past of the more blackened and doom variety but since we all got our tickets at different times I was the only one on the floor while the rest had balcony seats. Now normally this would be a pretty sweet set up but as the night wore on I think the other two guys got the better end of the bargain. I’ll get more into that later.
First up was Katatonia obviously. I had to use this promo pic because apparently none of the pics I took were worth a damn due to my unfamiliarity of Draeden’s camera and not knowing how to zoom plus the flash screwed things up. The band came out to a great reception and opened with Forsaker off their last album ‘Night is the New Day’ and the first of only two real problems surfaced. Jonas’s mic was not initially working. After the second or third verse they got it going and without missing a beat the show continued on. Overall the sound was pretty good though the only other issue that came up was that on songs like ‘July’ the bass was so loud it was distorted but it wasn’t often and the band played most of my favorite tracks so I was happy. It helped that musically the band was very tight and the songs sounded just like on the cd’s. Jonas Renske isn’t much for conversations at least not on this set because they only had roughly 45 minutes to play but he was very congenial and did make a dig about the last time they were in San Francisco they had to play at Thee Parkside which was the smallest place they ever played and made note of how big the Warfield was. Overall I was pretty pleased with the set and the show and think it was worth the wait. Here is the setlist.
So after a quick breakdown of Katatonia’s gear and building Opeth’s set it was time for the main event. Now I knew what to expect from this whole show thanks to my friend Snagon’s show review for the Number of the Blog awhile back. I knew this set was going to be a much more mellow and laid back show then when I saw them a few years ago. I had a suspicion that many people were ignorant of the fact that this was not going to be a brutal pit show like in the past. So with a bit of psychedelic lighting Opeth came out and opened with The Devil’s Orchard off of Heritage. As usual Opeth is an amazing band live. Musically they’re spot on and this particular set saw no technical difficulties. Mikael Akerfeldt has become easily one of my favorite frontmen live. He’s conversational, witty, and seems to thoroughly enjoy interacting with the crowd. At one point someone yelled out for them to play ‘Harvest’ and Mikael told them “YOU sing Harvest.” And then preceded to lead off on a crowd rendition of it. Here, check it out for yourself.
The set was an interesting mix of songs that blended many of the more laid back songs and some obscure tracks. From the Gods of War soundtrack tune Throat of Winter to Faces of Melinda there was a nice balance of songs that really showcased just how good a band Opeth can be. Here is the setlist for Opeth.
Now I do want to talk about the crowd or more specifically a couple of groups of people. The reason I stated earlier that I kind of wished I had been able to go up into the balcony seats is because as I stated I don’t believe alot of people were aware that none of the death metal tracks were going to be played. There was absolutely no pitting for Katatonia’s set and quite frankly Opeth’s set wasn’t much heavier either. But people wanted to see Opeth and I think the combination of beer, pot (which got smoked alot around me), and the absolute need to pit was predominant. So Opeth begins to play Porcelain Heart and by the first chorus when the guitars do get ramped up the pitting began. People were getting slammed into me and one guy decided to be a whirling dervish by spinning fast and bouncing off people. Now it could be because I’m getting older but I was getting pissed and frustrated. Dudes were getting injured as in one guy got an elbow smashed into his ear and was in obvious pain. So on a night when everybody should just have been happy with getting stoned and enjoying the music onstage these idiots decided to be even more violent then at a Amon Amarth show. All because they felt it needed to be done because it was OPETH BRO! So I couldn’t enjoy the set as much as I would have liked thanks to making sure I didn’t get my knees taken out by 300 pound guys slamming into me or camera and other things getting broken. This is about the best video I can find that had even a remote shot of a pit and about the 8 minute mark you can make it out on the left. Trust me it was pretty bad in person.
So when Opeth left the stage to get ready to come back out for the encore I decided to head out to the lobby and see if I could find my ride and lo and behold what do I see by the Katatonia merch table was Katatonia themself. I got to speak with Jonas Renske and he was gracious enough to take a pic. Yes I know, I’m not supposed to grin but be grim. It’s a habit to smile for the camera. Fuck off. Draeden was down at the same time and got an autograph and photo taken as well. I asked about the touring and Jonas said the band was going to head home and finish the new record and I also asked about the two bands touring together if this was the first time and he said in the States it was but they had toured together in Europe before. So this was a cool way to cap off to the evening. I’m going to leave you now with Draeden’s perspective of the show from his seat in the sky looking down at the mortals. Needless to say it’s a stark contrast to mine. In the meantime if these two bands have not hit your city yet definitely go check it out.
Hey everyone, since we both attended the show that evening we both were with separate attendees and separate perspectives. Mr Liz was on the floor whist I sat in cramp comfort with a great view of the show.
Having previously seen Opeth and already aware of just how amazing their live performances are I was slightly more excited to see Katatonia. I enjoyed many of their songs, with Unfurl being one of my all time favourite songs. They did not disappoint.
Aside from some dodgy wiring issues on the first song and a few intermittent bouts of distortion and/or feedback. They were brilliant. Great crowd interaction, perfectly crafted setlist spanning their career and just the right amounts of head-banging highs and melancholy lows. I’m glad I picked up their cd (though I wished I could gave gotten a shirt too).
On to Opeth. As I mentioned already I’ve seen them before and left that show totally impressed. This one was slightly different as that I was even more impressed. The first time I had a rudimentary knowledge of Opeth though nowhere near as familar as Rob. I left that show a new fan.
This time I sat in awe of Michaels vocal ability. He sung with an obvious attachment to his music but with the skill to match that intensity. His vocals were astounding. The acoustic part of the set was brilliant and the banter with the crowd, his jokes and musings brought a lot of laughs out of the crowd yet keeping the seriousness he felt about the music well protected.
To top off the evening, I was VERY glad I had picked up the cd because Jonas, lead singer of Katatonia was down talking to fans near their merch table and I had him sign the booklet and take a pic with him. He looked metal, I looked like a dork.
All in all I had a great time and again I thank my extended family (Joe, Jas and T) for taking me along with them.