All photography and content © John Raptis Photography 2020

Opeth Live @ The Sydney Opera House, Sydney

The Devil’s Orchard

It seems like an eternity ago that this gig was announced. In fact, it was. It immediately perked my interest as it was Opeth and it was being promoted and handled by a promoter who I have a fantastic relationship with.

In celebration of the band’s release of the brilliant ‘Sorceress’ album, the band planned some very special shows across the world to showcase and support the album. Venues such as New York’s Radio City Music Hall, SSE Wembley Arena in London have already been performed in front of sell out crowds and rapturous response.

Now it is Australia’s turn and the performance at the incredible and historic Sydney Opera House sold out months ago.

“These three shows will be completely unique in terms of songs, spanning over 2 separate set lists. The 1st set will consist of songs exclusively from the Deliverance/Damnation records. We’ll pull out songs from our back catalogue and mix it up with newer stuff during the second set. So it’s a little bit of a celebration indeed! We’ll only play this set list 3 times on the whole world tour, so if you miss it, you’ll have missed it. We very much hope to see you there!” – Mikael Åkerfeldt

A week or so before the show, I didn’t even know if media would be allowed to cover the event. I had contacted the promoter a while ago and we were still waiting to hear from the band’s tour manager if photography would be allowed. The cut-off point for booking flights and accomodation was very, very near and I had resigned myself to the fact that this would be far too hard to get to in time.

But last week I found out that I had been granted access and that it was all systems go to photograph Opeth at the Sydney Opera House albeit with a few restrictions. There would be no photography from the front of the stage and only two songs would be allowed from the aisles. I have photographed under these conditions before many times at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre in St Kilda so I knew what was to come. Or did I?

Arriving in beautiful Sydney, the wretched humidity the city is renowned for hit me hard. Jesus fuckn Christ, it is horrible! I looked like a drown rat by the time I checked into my hotel room.

After settling in for a while, there was no chance in hell that I would be in Sydney and not visit Utopia Records. As I bought a slab of some classic era KISS bootlegs, I realised that I seem to visit this place every decade or so. Over the last 20 years I have been to the place in 1997, 2007 and now 2017. All three visits have been at different incarnations of the store.

But I digress, a little. Opeth were in the store a little earlier in the day doing the regulatory meet & greet signing autographs and posing for photos with the fans. I must have just missed them but I did photograph their last meet & greet in Melbourne when they were last in Australia.

I arrived at the Opera House a little early but that was on purpose so I could walk around her and explore a little. She is such a treasure in Australian architecture and seeing her up close and personal is quite the experience. It is one thing to see this place in photos and videos, but seeing it all right before you is an absolutely amazing treat.

In the blink of an eye, the hour had arrived.

In perfect silence where you could literally hear a pin drop, the magic in the air was beginning to electrify.

The band began with ‘Sorceress’ which twisted and twined through it jazz-like ensemble setting the mood for the night ahead.

With a set divided in three… ‘Sorcery’, ‘Damnation’ and ‘Deliverance’ and featuring 16 of Opeth’s finest moments (both melodic and brutal) there were not too many, if any at all, that were not pleased with the plentiful setlist on offer.

Acoustically stunning it was hard to fathom that the sound pouring off that stage was only generated by five people. So precise. So meticulous. So utterly stunning. It was probably the finest hour (and a bit!) of Opeth I have ever witnessed and I have been privy to seeing and photographing these guys many, many times over the years.

It was magic. Pure and simple. Just magic!

Ghost Of Perdition
Demon Of The Fall
The Wilde Flowers
Face Of Melinda
The Devil’s Orchard
Cusp Of Eternity
Heir Apparent
The Drapery Falls

Death Whispered A Lullaby
In My Time Of Need

Master’s Apprentices
By The Pain I See In Others

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