Red Rocks Amphitheatre is hallowed ground for musical artists, a natural, open air performance space that has hosted some of the biggest names in rock. U2 shot their watershed Under a Blood Red Sky concert film there, and Stevie Nicks, Neil Young and – yes – Dave Matthews Band, among others, have all recorded live at this special place. After ticking off buildings such as the Royal Albert Hall and Sydney Opera House on their list of coveted venues, Denver, Colorado’s spectacular amphitheatre was chosen as the site for Opeth’s latest sprawling live document.
Just as In Live Concert at Royal Albert Hall does, Garden of the Titans riffs on a Deep Purple album for its cover art, paying another direct homage visually to one of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s biggest influences in the same the way that “The Devil’s Orchard” does musically, as they tear into its 70s rock feel and Hammond organ tones halfway through this mammoth performance. Perennial favourite “Demon of the Fall” raises its head early, with the band sounding truly menacing in their surroundings. Perhaps it’s the natural acoustics lending them some weight, but when Opeth enter heavy mode they are simply crushing on this release, with a rawness that is often lost on their studio outings; Åkerfeldt in demonic voice mode sounds monstrous and the band is flawless as they work through a set of highlights from almost every album, closing of course with the epic “Deliverance” thundering out into the night from the hills over Denver. Even in the face of the area’s famous inclement weather, which almost forced U2 to cancel their Red Rocks performance all those years ago, Opeth are undaunted.
Blackwater Park and the first two albums are ignored, making this a totally different set from the Albert Hall DVD of eight years ago and in some ways a companion piece to it, a striking comparison between then and now – not just musically, but also in the development of Åkerfeldt’s rambling, off-kilter banter which is often longer than most other bands’ songs. From a visual point of view, multi-cameras capture every angle in glorious HD, making it every bit a feast for the eyes as it is for the ears, showing a much more dynamic Opeth than the resolute statues captured at Albert Hall.
Strong performance, strong set list and excellent production standards, this is a live statement from a band at the very top of their game in every respect.