It's a few years now since I last saw Pain of Salvation live - first time was supporting DT on the 6DOIT tour in 2002, then a small "BeNe" headlining tour they did later that same year.
Still basking in the glow of the critical acclaim following the release of Remedy Lane, they were on of prog's hottest assets, the next big thing, the future of the genre.
Sadly since then they seem to have gone slowly backwards: the brilliant, but challenging Be, the departure of Kristofer Gildenlöw (Daniel's brother on bass
- from which the band have never fully recovered IMO), the very patchy Scarsick and more recently the Roadsalt
project which appears to have alienated more fans that it has satisfied.
On top of this, we know that guitarist/singer Johan Hallgren will leave when the current tour is finished and now Frederik (keyboards) is set to follow him out the door.
Long time drummer Johan Langell left the band a few years back, and they've have been through several bass-players with none staying too long.
So not a happy camp really and this appeared to manifest itself in Daniel's demeanour on stage with the vast majority of his chatter to the crowd along the lines of "We're Pain of Salvation,
just in case you've never heard of us", "I bet you'll cheer louder for Opeth" and a whole raft of similar lines.
Maybe he was trying to be funny, but if so it didn't work too well.
Despite all this, Pain of Salvation are still a potent force as a live band and Daniel himself I still regard as a musical genius - somewhat mercurial perhaps, maybe misguided at times,
but he has talent aplenty and he likes people to know it.
The band ripped through a 40 minute set that seemed to fly by and although I'll have to admit that I'm yet to fully warm to the two Roadsalt albums,
I must admit that the songs come across better live than they do on the studio versions - perhaps because they're not hobbled by the tinny production technique used on the CD's,
also I imagine due to the strong presence of Daniel himself.
To the Shoreline, with it's western theme was particularly good and 1979 came across very well, showcasing as it does Daniel's fantastic voice.
Less welcome was Ashes from The Perfect Element Part I - I've no idea why they persist in playing this track, by PoS standards I find it tremendously dull.
Kingdom of Loss balanced things out somewhat being one of the stronger cuts from Scarsick,
the lyric perhaps even more relevant today than it was on initial release.
By the time they played No Way and Linoleum the band appeared to be enjoying themselves much more and Daniel had ceased with the self-piteous comments.
The departing Johan and Frederik played to perfection, as did the touring bassist, Daniel Karlsson,
although with his black apparel and EMO hair he looked a refugee from The Cure rather than playing in a prog-metal band; certainly a little odd by comparison say to the bare-torso'd Johan.
If there was any bad-blood on stage between the members it wasn't so apparent, although Johan went over several times to play next to Daniel K ignoring Daniel G on his way,
but that could be normal for all I know.
Such a short set doesn't really do a band like Pain of Salvation justice having as they do such a rich back-catalogue,
and to see a band that had so much promise to be relegated to a support act is a bit of a shame.
However, whether asked for or not, change is coming and perhaps that's exactly what's needed now to shake things up one way or the other and here's hoping they get themselves back on track.
Setlist Pain of Salvation
Softly She Cries
To the Shoreline
Kingdom of Loss
Seemed clear to me that many of the audience had turned-up expecting a metal gig as they deemed it more interesting to talk loudly to their friends throughout Opeth's set.
Why on earth do these ignorant pigs bother and not just go down the pub instead?
Why waste the money on a ticket and not listen?
Even worse, why deprive a real fan the chance or buying a ticket for a sold-out gig?
I had at least three friends that really wanted to attend this gig, but it was sold-out.
Tilburg 013's main hall was absolutely packed for the PoS set, well that's what I thought, because in the interval between the bands even more people piled-in.
I've been to this superb venue many times over the years and have never seen it sold-out, it was really stuffed to bursting!
For those of us having to go to work the next day and with a long drive home I was very pleased when Opeth came on-stage at 21:00 prompt.
What followed was two hours of some of the most sublime live music I've ever heard.
Well maybe 90 minutes once you factor in Mikael's dead-pan comedy chit-chat between each song (most of which was at the expense of his band mates).
As an Englishman I absolutely love his humour and when he's fed-up of the rock'n'roll life-style perhaps he can move into stand-up comedy.
The strength of Opeth's latest release, Heritage, is it's atmosphere and texture and I wasn't sure if they'd be able to pull this off in a live setting,
but they did with aplomb and huge kudos in particular for the new keyboard player, Joakim Svalberg, who absolutely nailed all the delicate moments throughout.
OK, this isn't such complicated music, but it requires a good feel and exact timing.
It occurs to me in hindsight that the music would have been more suited to a classical concert venue with a seated audience too, it requires focus and attention to really appreciate.
One suspects that Mikael is quite a demanding fellow, as every song was played absolutely spot-on, you really could have been listening to the CD at times, every note executed wonderfully.
The Devil's Orchard and I Feel the Dark were very nice openers, but I could have lived without Slither as it's the one song quite out of place on the album to my mind.
Nepenthe in particular was quite a hard piece for many in the audience to grasp with its gentle meanderings.
Along with the encore, Folklore, these were the only tracks from Heritage that were played.
Personally I would have liked to have heard more - Häxprocess in particular would have been super live, although maybe it would have been drowned-out by the blabbing-rabble.
This left the band to pick some other songs from their back catalogue with mellow vocals, enter The Face of Melinda (written about Mikael's daughter of course),
Porcelain Heart and one I didn't previously know, The Throat of Winter.
Seems this was written for a video-game soundtrack (God of War III), what a shame that it wasn't on an official release as the piece was rather lovely.
Judging by the flak it receives on the Internet boards Porcelain Heart isn't a popular song with many,
but being dramatically more metal than the rest of the set up to this point it was grasped by those that had turned-up expecting a headbang-fest.
Credence is another track I was unfamiliar with, being from the My Arms, Your Hearse album, which I have, but never got into.
Fair to say that this was a nice track live, so it will prompt a re-evaluation of the CD.
Biggest cheer of the night was given for A Fair Judgement, the one song from Deliverance without death-metal vocals, that clearly indicated the preference of the audience.
Opeth slowed it down big-time at the end of the track, drawing out each each successive chord longer and longer.
This was very effective and created a wonderful tension - before following up with another popular choice, Hex Omega from Watershed.
Joakim was just phenomenal in the keyboard break here.
It was also nice to hear Closure from Damnation, actually a shame they didn't play more of that album,
perhaps next tour now the fan-base is a little more used to the idea that Opeth aren't playing metal much for the moment.
No-doubt there were many in the audience that left dissatisfied - where was Demon of the Fall and The Drapery Falls?
I wasn't one of those. This was a setlist of music drenched in feeling and melancholy and I for one personally hope that Michael continues in this direction.
For me it's a triumph of artistic integrity over greed and profit.
The Devil's Orchard
I Feel The Dark
Face of Melinda
The Throat of Winter
A Fair Judgement
Opeth & Pain Of Salvation
Tuesday, 8th November, 2011
02 Academy, Bristol, the UK
This was always going to be interesting with both bands in the middle of some serious evolution in their sounds and after the release of Opeth’s stunning Heritage album this became a must-see show.
The full house clearly suggested that many others felt the same and the fact that the reaction to both bands was so positive and supportive made for a great evening.
Pain of Salvation were still sound checking while the audience entered, Daniel Gildenlöw later stating that it was due to their late arrival after a bus breakdown.
It seems that they were also using some borrowed equipment which may have made the show a little tricky for them but, no matter,
they took to their cramped position on the front of the stage just after 8 and played a solid set with some great moments that was slightly
let down by the bass being too low in the mix and drums that sounded pretty flat.
With the set focused as expected on the Road Salt albums much of the bands, in my view, classic material was overlooked with only Ashes from The Perfect Element,
Part 1 dating from before 2007s Scarsick.
Nevertheless the set was enjoyable with the Road Salt material coming across well, highlights being the opening Road Salt Theme
/ Softly She Cries double-punch with Gildenlöw on fretless 7-string, Ashes and Gildenlöw’s stream of consciousness presentation of Kingdom of Loss.
Throughout Gildenlöw was the focal point and in superb voice and though there was little scope for movement on stage the band put on an enjoyable if brief show.
At the end of this tour guitarist Johan Hallgren and keyboardist Fredrik Hermansson, both long term members,
will be leaving Pain of Salvation and as bassist Daniel Karlsson is just a touring member this leaves the band comprising only Gildenlöw and drummer
Léo Margarit so it will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Setlist Pain of Salvation
Road Salt Theme
Softly She Cries
To the Shoreline
Kingdom of Loss
After a quick change over Opeth arrived to rapturous applause and fittingly kicked off with The Devil’s Orchard, lead single from Heritage.
After performing a U.S. tour focused on the new album with only clean vocals the same was expected for this European leg and that is exactly what we got.
Pleasingly the set ventured to various eras of their now lengthy career and although this was a very different set to the one I saw on the
Watershed tour the results were superb and showed the band maturing and growing in confidence.
Though the growls were missing there was no disputing the heaviness that the band are able to summon up when required and this was in no way a
lightweight show with powerful highpoints such as Hex Omega, A Fair Judgement and Face of Melinda.
The sound was as clear as a bell from where I was standing and you could hear every nuance of the intricate material
but also the volume was there without it straying into overkill meaning that there was no need to spend the next few days with ringing ears;
a real credit to the sound engineer who did a superb job.
The playing as expected was fantastic and wrung every ounce of passion out of the songs.
Stage centre Mikael Åkerfeldt was as laid back and funny as ever with faultless vocals and a very deft guitar touch to boot.
His deadpan delivery makes him a quality entertainer and tonight’s anecdotes included a punch in the stomach from Dave Mustaine and how you can’t find weed in Japan,
much to the chagrin of bassist Martin “The Face of Happiness” Méndez and partner in crime Ronnie James Dio whose sad passing was commemorated with a rollicking version of the song he inspired, Slither.
Nepenthe was introduced in true Fast Show style as “Welcome to Jazz Club”.
Lead guitarist Fredrik Åkesson was incredibly fluid and effortlessly reeled off the convoluted riffs while the unique stylings of Méndez and Martin Axenrot
(drums) gave an unmistakable texture to the music.
New man Joakim Svalberg did a fine job conjuring up the various keyboard sounds to effectively recreate the songs from Heritage and fits into the band very well.
Lighting and atmosphere were excellent despite the typically metal crowd being very noisy during the quiet parts,
a distinct difference from the Steven Wilson gig I saw a few weeks earlier where you could hear a pin drop.
It is a shame that many appeared not to be listening to the quieter numbers as Opeth use these textures to much greater effect than most other bands.
Midway through the set the acoustic guitars came out for an entertaining change of pace that just went on a bit too long.
Odd to see some vigorous moshing breaking out during an acoustic number; I suspect the participants were being ironic!
The only other thing I would change about the set would be to shorten Axenrot’s solo section during a beautiful Porcelain Heart as it tips things slightly off balance.
Other than that a healthy bunch of songs from Heritage fitted the bill with a nice selection of older material going back as far as My Arms,
Your Hearse and including The Throat of Winter recorded for the God of War III video game.
A totally mesmerizing performance from a band at the top of their game with great all round performances.
Opeth are clearly determined to stick to their guns regarding their current sound but though
I did not miss the growling vocals they are still a large part of Opeth’s dynamic history and could still be deployed without breaking up the set.
Most fans clearly want to hear the heavier songs so it would be wrong and a shame to see them ditched completely.
Where Opeth go from here is anyone’s guess but I am certainly looking forward to it.
The Devil's Orchard
I Feel The Dark
Face of Melinda
Porcelain Heart (with drum solo)
The Throat of Winter (acoustic)
A Fair Judgement