Live Review: Opeth at The Auckland Powerstation

Opeth Sorceress Auckland Poster

Opeth – Sorceress World Tour

w/ Caligula’s Horse

Powerstation, Auckland

Thursday 2 February 2017

It has been 11 years and 3 studio releases since Opeth last played a show in New Zealand. And from the excitement outside Auckland’s Powerstation, we can definitely assume that they are long overdue.

19:00 The line outside stretched well over 100 meters as we came waltzing up to the gig, prompting a quick detour to Galbraith’s pub across the road for a pint. Once inside we were hit by a strong wave of B.O courtesy of the black t-shirt brigade. High spirits and freshly poured beer in hand helped to focus our remaining senses. We did, however, move outside just in case, meeting up with many well socially lubricated excited fans with tales of sold out shows and the hunt for extra tickets.

20:00 Doors open and the black sea crashes through the gates. Once inside, the merch booth is already pumping out t-shirts. Its only competition is the beer flowing from glass bottles and into plastic cups. One gladly partakes.

Caligula's Horse Valhalla Wellington

Caligula’s Horse: Beckoning the Crowd

Caligula’s Horse

Having seen them just one day prior at Wellington’s Valhalla, I was keen to see what Brisbane Prog-rockers Caligula’s Horse could bring to a larger venue. Playing with a true sense of passion executed with precision, their Brisbane sound translates well to a house packed with Kiwi metal heads. Soaring vocals and blazing yet nuanced dueling guitars showed Caligula’s Horse’s professionalism and judging from the crowd’s reaction they will most certainly be welcomed back to our shores.

Too much of the creature made us lose track of time but the short break after Caligula’s Horse four song set sent us one more time back to the bar rubbing shoulders with the ever-increasing sea of people. I managed to secure a great spot right next to the sound desk ensuring that I would make the most of the acoustics of the venue. And it provided easy access to the bar. Standing in the crowd empty-handed just did not feel right.

Opeth Sorceress World Tour Powerstation Auckland

From Darkness comes Light


Opeth walked onto the darkened stage greeted by the deafening cheer of the crowd. Crimson and silver lights flashed. Little dampened the sound of the audience as Opeth ripped into the title track off their latest release, “Sorceress”.

The well-rehearsed set is filled with a mix of old and new continuing with “Ghost of Perdition” – a personal favourite of mine – before moving on with “The Wild Flowers” (also from their latest release). Not a band famous for an overly energetic performance, the set is highlighted with Mikael’s dry humour, often followed by sensible chuckles from the rest of the band and audience alike. A well-balanced sound is at points dressed up with some silky smooth lead guitar tones (Frederik is unmatched for the night).

Opeth Sorceress World Tour Powerstation Auckland

Frederik is ripping it up!

The one low point of the night came when it was time for Mikael to announce their last song for the evening. A large portion of the crowd started to boo but was quickly turned into a cheer when they were told that it was bad form. The set ended as it quite often does with a perfectly performed rendition of the song “Deliverance” from the album of the same name.

All in all a fantastic night was had by all. Our night ended on Auckland’s Queen Street, where we were treated to a show by a 17-year-old male who was taking a joy ride in a forklift that he had stolen. We filmed this young man and sent a video through to stuff which can be viewed here.

Words by Mathias Hallberg.

Photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Steel Panther at the Auckland Powerstation

Steel Panther Auckland Powerstation

Steel Panther

w/ Blue Ruin

The Powerstation, Auckland

Sunday 26 June


Like similar acts Tenacious D and The Beards, Steel Panther are comprised of some very talented musicians who choose to centre their band on parody. By channeling late 1980’s LA rock giants like Mötley Crüe, Guns n Roses and Skid Row, Steel Panther bring the excess of hair metal forward thirty years, with a generous dosage of tongue in [between] cheek.

It’s all-out assault on decency, with every song guaranteed to offend. If it’s sexual and lewd, than you’re likely to find a Steel Panther song on the topic. I dare say it’s an assault on the environment as well, with the amount of hairspray the band uses surely responsible for a large part of our ozone depleting.

Steel Panther

Arriving at The Powerstation on a Sunday evening, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I have seen some of my favourite bands play this venue [Rise Against, Biffy Clyro, Jimmy Eat World], so I know it works well as a tightly packed intimate setting. The rest of the crowd, however, seemed to have a fair idea of what they were in for. Glancing around I saw countless fishnet tights, neon pink outfits, and luscious long locks flowing from underneath bandannas …. And that was just the men!

Kiwi rockers Blue Ruin kicked off night with their own blend of rock and punk. They recently opened for Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie, and the Runaways influence is obvious on the all-girl five-piece. In fact, they’ve had a good run of slots opening for various acts recently, including Buckcherry and The Misfits, both of whom they covered during tonight’s set.  They did OK and looked the part, but it was pretty apparent that they need a few more band practices to tighten up their act. Blue haired front woman Jessie Booth appears set to fill Jennie Skulander’s boots if she keeps up what she is doing, especially with that roar of hers.

Blue Ruin.jpg

In between sets one wild-eyed individual approached my friend and I to chat. He had long curly hair, a thick black beard and glasses, giving him a white nerdy Jesus look. I think he decided to chat to the two of us because we both had beards as well. He was saying about how much he loved Steel Panther, and how he has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his son to listen to them as well. My [Swedish] friend has seen Steel Panther three times already, and was telling the guy that he was in for a fun night. Upon hearing my friend’s Swedish accent, the guy mistook him for American and began professing his undying love for Bernie Sanders to us, despite my friend explaining that he isn’t actually American. After a few minutes of hearing all about the virtues of the Bern, the guy produced a small joint and began to offer it around.

Kicking off the night with the panther growls that introduce song “Eye Of The Panther”, Steel Panther showed us what we were in for. Hot off an Australian tour with Black Stone Cherry, the band was in fine form. They sounded seriously good. Parody act or not, they knew how to play. They had the image down-pat too. Everything the band wore was lycra and leopard print, and they all had long flowing hair and bandannas.

Bass player Lexi Foxx puts the glam component in glam rock, preening himself in front of the mirror, spraying hairspray and applying lip gloss between most songs. Aerosmith have the song “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, and although I thought it was about Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, it could very well have been written about Foxx instead. Foxx was on the receiving end of many of the band’s jokes, being portrayed as the “retarded bass player”.

Frontman Michael Starr was the “slightly fatter David Lee Roth”, or “slightly skinnier Vince Neil”, depending which way you looked at it. Either way, he could sing just as well. They band told of how he had received vocal lessons from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and Starr even came onstage dressed like Halford during one song, rocking aviator sunglasses and a bright red sparkly sequined coat.

Guitarist Satchel provided one of the highlights of the night with a ripping extended guitar solo that included a medley with nods to classic rock bands like Van Halen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and even a song from The Sound of Music made it in there.

Drummer Stixx Zadinia had little to say throughout the night, but he had complete control over his monstrous red DW kit. Throughout the set he would play around by throwing drumsticks to the band and crew, then catching them when thrown back and playing on without missing a beat.


The band’s real strength lay in how well they could improvise. There was plenty of stage banter, and although not all of it could have been original, much of it was. They interacted with the crowd, cracked jokes and brought girls up onstage to dance around.

One such girl was Asian, so got the dubious honour of being the centre of attention for the song “Asian Hooker”. Later in the night two scantily clad twins wearing studded bras got onstage and the band composed a song for them, each member ad-libbing couplets while Satchel strummed his acoustic guitar. It was a bit concerning seeing two sisters so desperate for attention that they would hook up with each other onstage, and even the band seemed slightly uncomfortable with it. Soon enough the stage was full, with girls being pulled up left, right and centre. It was undeniably crude, but that is all you would expect from Steel Panther. And that’s where the genius of their joke lies, because although they go all-out to shock with their content, it is hardly any different to the “serious” that they are spoofing, making the act believable.

At the end of the band started to throw items into the crowd: guitar picks, water bottles, empty hair spray canisters etc… One drumstick was thrown very close to where I was standing so I put my hand out to catch it, but it was just out of reach. The person who caught it raced to the back of our venue so I turned to see who it was, and lo and behold, it was none other than our Sanders-loving stoner friend from earlier in the night. Needless to say he was completely ecstatic with his prize.

Steel Panther put on an incredibly entertaining performance. It wasn’t just a concert, it was a show. A funny, absurd, inappropriate and improvised rock show. And it was awesome.

Death to all but metal indeed.


The Steel Panther set list

Joseph James

Live Review: Jimmy Eat World play the Futures album at the Auckland Powerstation


Jimmy Eat World playing at the Auckland Powerstation

Jimmy Eat World (Mesa, Arizona, USA)

w/ The Sinking Teeth

The Powerstation, Auckland

Saturday 8 November 2014

Jimmy Eat World released their fifth album, Futures, ten years ago. This was as good a reason as any for the band to do an anniversary tour with the premise of playing the album start to finish at each show.

It is always interesting when a band plays a notable album in its entirety. You know most of the songs that will feature during the set, but can never tell if the band is going to do something more. Weezer did it well when they played their eponymous Blue Album at Vector Arena last year. They started off with a greatest hits set, followed by an intermission that featured a presentation from a long serving roadie about Weezer’s formative years, before wrapping it up with the Blue Album. When Shihad played Killjoy and The General Electric they had a rule that the encores could only feature songs that had been released prior to the album they’d just played live. I was happy to see Jimmy Eat World play Futures, but was hoping that they would play a selection of other songs as well.

I needn’t have worried. As promised, the band played all eleven songs from Futures, commencing with the title track and finishing with album closer23″. But then they played a selection of songs that spanned a good portion of their catalogue, enough to please everyone present.

The musicians were stationed onstage with drums and keys at the rear, and the bass and two guitars at the front. This added an interesting visual dynamic. The symmetry was nice, but the band was mainly lit from behind, leaving the forward standing members silhouetted for most of the night. This seemed deliberate, because it was clear that the lighting technician knew what he was doing. The lighting wasn’t spectacular, but it added a lot to the show in a subtle way.


The bass and guitar players at the front were frequently silhouetted

There’s something special about seeing a band play their entire album live. They sounded just like the CD, from the rousing “Futures”, to the solemn “Drugs or Me”, to the tender “Night Drive” and the album highlight “Pain”.

My one critique was that the band had a backing track of string section during the song “Drugs or Me”. This is me being purist and nit-picky, but when I go to a live performance I expect it to be exactly that: performed live. It didn’t take away from the experience, and actually enhanced the mood of the song, but I prefer not to listen to pre-recorded music in a live context.

Futures is a great album, it sets a mood and simmers away. But the following set added urgency and unpredictability to the show because we no longer knew what was coming next.

The second half of the night showcased another side to the band. They seemed to become more energetic and less restrained. Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo. Rhythm guitarist Tom Linton sang lead vocals for “Blister”. It was a good mix of songs from various albums and the audience became more enthralled as the band kept delivering by playing songs that we had hoped for.

For their final encore the band inevitably concluded with the two yet unplayed singles from their 2001 album Bleed American: “Sweetness” and “The Middle”. I’m sure that everybody had been eagerly anticipating these two hits, and judging from the crowd reaction the band chose well to end on such a high.

Because this was my first time seeing Jimmy Eat World, I think I would have preferred to see a standard show. That said, it was pretty unique show. They played a range of songs, old and new, but I got a glimpse of the band that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It was a great night and I’d certainly like to see them play again.

Joseph James

Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo

Lead guitarist Jim Adkins became increasingly wild with each guitar solo

Live Review: Biffy Clyro at the Auckland Powerstation


Biffy Clyro

Powerstation, Auckland

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Last night at my dreams came true.

In the form of three topless bearded Scotsmen, no less!

Biffy Clyro have been my favourite band since I was 15. I finally got to see them live last night. This was the first time the band has played in New Zealand, their performance at Rhythm and Vines in 2009 having been cancelled due to illness.

Biffy Clyro have packed out Wembly Stadium, headlined some of the UK’s biggest music festivals, and toured with rock heavyweights such as Foo Fighters and Muse. Despite this, they are largely unheard of in New Zealand. Not that this was evident last night, with the Powerstation at full capacity, brimming with diehard fans yelling their trademark chant: “Mon the Biff!” (Mon being an abbreviation of “come on”).

The band made a grand entrance. They stormed the stage to a frenzied pre-recorded Scottish shouted chant, one sounding rather like a Maori haka in my mind. If the chant wasn’t enough to rev up to crowd, opening song ‘Different People’ from Biffy’s latest record Opposites made sure to finish the job. The song has a slow build up, but every person in the crowd knew that after a few minutes the band would reach a verse and let loose. And let loose they did.

The show was saturated in energy. The musicians threw themselves around the stage with abandon. The anthems were huge. The ballads soared and the heavier songs were explosive.

“We’re monning as much as we can!” front man Simon Neil shouted to the crowd, “This is our first time in New Zealand, so we’re going to play some older songs. If that’s OK?”  The band then played ‘Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave’ from their 2004 release Infinity Land. This was the first time they’d played it in seven years.

Biffy Clyro front man Simon Neil playing 'God and Satan' solo on acoustic guitar

Biffy Clyro front man Simon Neil plays ‘God and Satan’ solo on acoustic guitar


And that wasn’t the only treat for the crowd. The set list was well balanced, drawing from material old and new, acoustic and electric. There was even a B-side thrown into the mix. My personal highlight was ‘57’ from the band’s debut release Blackened Sky.

It was impressive how talented the band was. Each of the three members (front man Simon Neil on guitar, and twin brothers Ben and James Johnston, on drums and bass, respectively) shared vocal duties.  Also onstage were two touring musicians helping to fill out the sound (Mike Vennart on guitar and Richard Ingram on keys). When five musicians can play weird time signatures like that without missing a beat you can tell they’ve had a lot of practise. Just listen to the ‘Living Is a Problem Because Everything Dies’ and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. They had clearly spent a lot of time tightening up their playing to get that unified.

It was obvious that most of the audience were long time fans. You don’t usually see that many people singing along with the band at a show, especially when the lyrics are as off kilter as Biffy’s. But the fans were all singing along, many waving Scottish flags about. Vennart, the rhythm guitarist, even changed from his suit into a red kilt that a punter had thrown onstage.

It was a special night for Biffy Clyro fans. It had been a long time coming, but the band more than made up for the wait.

Joseph James

Set list for the Biffy Clyro Powerstation show in Auckland. Note that the actual set deviated from the plan. 'The Rain', a B-side from Similarities was played after 'Victory Over The Sun'. For the encore 'Folding Stars' was played in place of 'Machines'

Set list for the Biffy Clyro Powerstation show in Auckland.
Note that the actual set deviated from the plan.
‘The Rain’, a B-side from Similarities was played after ‘Victory Over The Sun’.
For the encore ‘Folding Stars’ was played in place of ‘Machines’