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Photos/Review: Mastodon & Opeth make triumphant return w/ Zeal & Ardor at Hammerstein Ballroom 11/20/2021

Posted by on November 23, 2021

 

You never know how much you’ve missed something until it suddenly vanishes. After nearly two years, we’ve finally seen tours announced, shows happening, normality somewhat return. However, when it’s your turn to attend a show after spending over six hundred days, for the most part in recluse isolation, you’re consumed with an emotion you haven’t felt for quite some time. Joy. The restoration of concerts feels surreal, and a dream that you didn’t think would come true. Something you’ve only had recurring nightmares or fantasies about while cooped up walking around in circles to keep some form of exercise going. However, it became a reality for me this past Saturday (20th), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City, seeing Mastodon, Opeth, and Zeal & Ardor. Ironically, Opeth was the last show I covered when they were at the iconic Apollo Theater in February 2020, right before the world shutdown.

 

Arriving at the venue after an extensive absence somehow felt a strange comfort and a natural familiarity. Fans lined up on the brisk Saturday night representing Opeth or Mastodon shirts instantly brought tears of joy to my heart. Seeing so many smiling and familiar faces, it was great to be back. 

 

Zeal & Ardor, a project I’ve personally embraced throughout this pandemic as musically they express diversity from black metal to avant-garde, soul, the works thanks to mastermind Manuel Gagneaux. The group has been periodically releasing new tracks within the last few months, where we heard two of those new songs with “Run” and “Götterdämmerung” live. Devoted fans arrived early, singing along to the tunes. They appeared to be a slightly different crowd at first compared to the blatant veteran Mastodon and Opeth fans who pushed their way up front later in the evening. The band gave a strong performance, where the music felt positive, yet the lyrics remained darker. It was a great warmup, welcoming the concertgoers with heavy energy and chill vibes.

 

Zeal & Ardor

  

Setlist:

Wake of a Nation

Church Burns

Götterdämmerung

Ship on Fire

Gravedigger’s Chant

Run

We Can’t Be Found

Death to the Holy

 

Opeth parted ways with longtime drummer Martin “Axe” Axenrot right before the tour kicked off in Asheville, NC, on November 16th. Scrambling for a replacement, these Swedish metal giants recruited Finnish drummer Sami Karppinen of Therion. Despite the last-minute shuffle, Opeth’s performance felt lax, where it was more about playing live again than supporting their latest effort, 20219’s In Cauda Venenum. Vocalist/guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt admitted at some point to the crowd how awkward it was to be back, revealing the setlist was for them to play live again for the audience since it’s been so long. The lights perfected the mood, as they went into songs as early as 1998’s My Arms, Your Hearse with “Demon of the Fall,” and 2001’s Blackwater Park with “The Drapery Falls.” To newer tracks such as the title track from 2016’s Sorceress and “Hjärtat vet vad handen gör” from the Swedish version of their latest effort. The night highlighted their evolved style over the years from black to progressive, and it moved with such a ferocious delivery, making it a perfect event for a parent to bring their child to a show with them for the first time, which did happen during this tour. When Opeth went into “Deliverance,” everyone knew time was up, as many guzzled the exceptionally strong drinks at the bar filled with a variety of cocktails from a potent margarita to discovering the Mastodon beer being quite delightful. Sadly, these Swedish giants, as much as the crowd enjoyed them seamlessly performing or just standing there listening to Mikeael ramble on about anything, it was a bittersweet moment watching them walk off the stage.    

 

Opeth

 

Setlist:

Hjärtat vet vad handen gör

Demon of the Fall 

Cusp of Eternity 

The Devil’s Orchard 

The Drapery Falls  

Windowpane 

Sorceress

Deliverance 

 

While Opeth graced the platform with more or less a set filled with their greatest hits, Mastodon were clearly there to show off their bleak new album, Hushed and Grim, which was released on October 29th via Reprise Records. Once again, these Atlanta rockers have punctured all wounds on their eighth full-length masterpiece, which was shown live with an immaculate visual display with led lights spread around like ocean waves to vivid imagery on the monitors displayed in the background. Their pain, suffering, and especially from the loss of their longtime manager Nick John is evident on the new album. Emotion bled through the crowd that night with new songs “Pain With an Anchor,” “The Crux,” “Teardrinker,” “Skeleton of Splendor,” “Pushing the Tides,” “More Than I Could Chew,” and the live debut of “Gobblers and Dregs.” With such an excellent emotional delivery, these giants did leave room for some fan favorites taking them back as early as “Mother Puncher” from their 2002 debut, Remission. Don’t expect to hear much from 2017’s Emperor of Sand and 2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun. However, there was at least one song from the rest of their catalog. At this point of the evening, the audience was mesmerized by the lights, emotion, and feeling a bit cozy from Hammerstein’s stiff beverages. Unfortunately, due to a strict curfew, there was no encore for either act.

Overall, the contrast between the three bands worked beautifully, making it a personal grand return to live music. Between the difference in lights, energy, Mikael’s discussions, and Mastodon’s straight-to-the-performance, this tour is something you do not want to miss. Live music is back, and it feels fantastic.    

 

Mastodon

 

Setlist:

Pain With an Anchor 

Crystal Skull 

Megalodon 

The Crux 

Teardrinker 

Bladecatcher 

Black Tongue 

Skeleton of Splendor

The Czar

Pushing the Tides 

More Than I Could Chew 

Mother Puncher 

Gobblers of Dregs 

Blood and Thunder 

 

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