It started when I arrived and parked in Chicago at around four o’clock yesterday afternoon. It was cold. The sidewalk was cold. The building I was forced to stand against was cold. But here I was.
Two hours didn’t seem too long, until the cold settled in to my feet and hands and knees. Gloves or no gloves, extra layers or not, it didn’t matter. Cold is cold. I knew it would be worth it. About ten minutes before we were let in, a woman was walking her Malamutes down the street, and all the folks in line were petting them and talking to them, and I said, “All these bad-ass metal heads are all, Look at the doggies! Oh, come here, doggy!” Folks laughed because it was true.
The opening act, given no more than thirty minutes, was Portland, OR’s Red Fang. I tried to get a shot of their stage set up, but there were only blue lights, and there was odd tracking caused, I think, by the fact that the lights were fluorescent, and therefore flashing too quick for my eyes but not my phones’s lens.
They are what a rock band should be – loud and ugly. They played their guts out for thirty minutes, hampered by the fact that their mics weren’t EQ’d properly and no one could hear a single word of any of the lyrics (they must have come through the monitors, though, because the band didn’t say anything).
After a quick teardown and set up, In Flames was up.
I wanted to like them. I was glad they had a lot of fans. The thing is, I was pressed up against the front edge barrier, and everyone was pushing forward, so I had the weight of the crowd behind me, and the immovable object of the stage barrier in front of me. So, I’m sore. Oh, and the crowd surfers, may they rest in hell, were a nuisance. I got kicked in the head a couple times until I learned to keep an eye on the security guys up front. I did shake hands with the bass player after the show, though, and the lead guitarist tossed me a pick, so that was cool.
Finally, at 10:00, Opeth came out
If I thought the crowd push from the back was bad before. . . Some guy’s elbow was grinding in to my kidneys. And, of course, I was standing next to OPETH’S BIGGEST FAN, who wouldn’t shut up, who bragged about how many shows he’d seen, and insisted on singing the softer vocal parts off-key. There were technical difficulties with Opeth’s set, too. For one thing, the airline hadn’t delivered five of the band’s guitars, so they were playing on instruments strange to them. Plus, leader Michael Akerfeldt’s pedal board had this weird click/hum in it that wouldn’t go away, and he was obviously frustrated by it, because he told the audience about it. On the other hand, they played an hour-and-a-half set (short for them), with a nice mix, including four songs from their newest record, and some of the best from their back catalog. I think this one best sums up the odd place this band has in metal history. They released The Ghost Reveries as their first major-label album, and everyone called them a sell-out. They also released a single, which made everyone call them a sell-out. The thing is, as Michael said during his introduction, it’s about Satan. I’m thinking, That’s kind of selling out. I didn’t say anything though. After the show, I got to shake lead guitarist Frederik Akerson’s hand, which was cool.
When I got home and spent most of my time complaining about getting hit with a beer can, kicked in the head by crowd surfers, and getting crushed by the crowd against the barrier, my wife asked, “Was it worth it?” My only answer was the obvious one: Of course. It was Opeth.