May 11th, 2017
Words by special guest contributor Sara Roggensack
Photos by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Red Rocks Amphitheater is a geological phenomenon forming a majestic natural amphitheater at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, in Morrison, Colorado. It seats 10,000 and overlooks Denver. The amphitheater was dedicated nearly 76 years ago and some of the world’s finest musicians have performed at Red Rocks ever since.
Opeth have done a few one-off shows at memorable venues in the recent past (Royal Albert Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Sydney Opera House), but once Opeth announced a performance at Red Rocks alongside Gojira, I immediately knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime show. Because I was born and grew up in Colorado, and because Opeth is my favorite band, this was a show I could not miss. The Devin Townsend Project was later added onto the bill, much to my excitement.
THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT
The forecast was questionable, but it didn’t rain all day and was sunny and warm for the start of the show. Devin Townsend is an amazing frontman and one of the most versatile vocalists out there, and this show was no exception; he seamlessly transitions from soaring highs to raspy screeches. Funny, gracious, and extremely talented, Devin put on a great show demonstrating his guitar proficiency and vocal virtuosity.
The Devin Townsend Project are the “nerd contingent” and they had people clapping along and smiling to the songs while Devin threw in a few jokes here and there. They played a few songs off of their latest album Transcendence, a song featuring singing genitalia (see the official video here), and the classics “Supercrush!” and “Kingdom.” Supported by an extremely talented band consisting of Dave Young on guitar, “Beav” Waddel on bass, Mike St Jean on keys, and Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums, the DTP put on an incredible show at an incredible venue. To paraphrase Devin, “This place is epic! And I hate the word epic!”
March of the Poozers
Gojira were up next, and took the stage as the sun was beginning to set. I was totally unfamiliar with any of their material, so I had no idea what to expect from a live show, but they completely blew everyone away with stunning visuals, a commanding stage presence and energy, fantastic music, and of course the fog and FIRE! Twenty foot columns of fire would shoot into the air throughout their set, blasting the crowd with heat. It took everyone by surprise, and was awesome!
Gojira (who consist of brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier on vocals/rhythm guitar and drums, respectively, Christian Andreu on lead guitar, and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass) played songs sampling their back catalogue, but most of the set was in support of their recent album, Magma. There was a short guitar glitch during the beginning of “Stranded,” but that was quickly resolved and didn’t take away any of the band’s momentum.
Later in the set, Mario demonstrated his capability with an elaborate drum solo, and Joe asked that we live in the moment and appreciate “the energy of these rocks,” gesturing to the two huge monoliths that make up the amphitheater. A nearly full moon rose above the horizon as Gojira wrapped up their set, and they were cemented in my mind as one of the best live shows in metal. That would be a tough act to follow.
The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
The Shooting Star
Toxic Garbage Island
While the crew was setting up for Opeth, the wind started to pick up and it got a little chilly, but shows at Red Rocks go on, snow, rain, or shine! Opeth are the masters of contrast; they balance the brutal and the beautiful, and transform heavy passages into harmonious melody. Each song they performed exemplified their versatility. Mikael Åkerfeldt is the vocalist, guitarist, and composes (nearly) all the music and lyrics for the band. Aside from Mike, Martin Mendez, the bassist, has been a part of Opeth the longest, while other members – Martin “Axe” Axenrot, drums, Fredrick Åkesson, guitar, and Joakim Svalberg, keyboards – joined in 2006 and onward.
Opeth came out to their usual entrance music, and went straight into “Sorceress,” which is one of those songs that sounds much better live than on the record. Because of past Opeth shows, I was concerned at first that the sound mix would be muddled, but then Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals rang out and it was beautiful. From where I was in the amphitheater (four rows from the stage), I could hear everything clearly and crisply – vocals, keys, guitars, bass, drums – all of it. This was the best sounding Opeth show I have ever been to (and this was show number ten). During “Demon of the Fall,” which was the ‘oldest’ song they played, there was another guitar glitch right at the transition to the folksy-guitar part of the song, but they recovered and moved right along.
Mike entertained the crowd with his banter, and said, “All hiccups – because we’re filming tonight – all hiccups that you hear magically might disappear.” Mike had the crowd sing along to “In My Time of Need” and after “Cusp of Eternity” used a few chord changes to move right into “Heir Apparent.” The second-to-last song Mikael described as “cock rock” and is my favorite song off of Sorceress: “Era.”
One more song left in the night, and as soon as I heard the single note hovering in the air, I knew it was my favorite Opeth song, “Deliverance.” In my opinion, this single song is quintessential Opeth. The song begins hard and fast, and heart-breakingly shifts into jazzy soft sections where the haunting clean vocals float over the guitars. The ending of the song slowly builds on top of grooving percussion; the main guitar returns and layers on top of the drums and bass, then more sound seeps in and fills the cracks, until it feels like you will sonically burst. Just then, everything fades away and you are left with the rhythm of the drums, bass, and guitars in unison, ebbing and flowing until the final note.
Ghost of Perdition
Demon of the Fall
The Wilde Flowers
In My Time of Need
The Devil’s Orchard
Cusp of Eternity
Each band gave an incredible performance, and the fact that Opeth recorded the show means that so many other people will get to see this great performance. It looked like Gojira were also recording the show, but I have not heard that confirmed. This was one of the most memorable shows I have had the pleasure of attending, and look forward to seeing these bands again in the future!