An incredible lineup of three bands rocked The Riviera Theatre.
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Place: The Riviera Theatre (4746 N. Racine Avenue; Chicago, Illinois 60640)
Ticket price: $66.81 (after all taxes and fees)
This was my first concert since the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions started and messed the whole world up for the last two years. My last show was actually seeing King Diamond at The Riviera too in November 2019. I didn’t know then that it would be my last show in forever. I went to concerts pretty regularly in the few years before the pandemic but that all came to a grinding halt. It’s something that’s been missing in my life that I didn’t fully realize until this show.
With the lineup of Mastodon, Opeth and Khemmis I knew I had to go. It’s kind of like a dream tour with how awesome each band is. I love both Mastodon and Khemmis. Both are some of my all-time favorite bands. This is a 19 date tour that started on April 21 with the last show on May 14. Khemmis is from Denver, Colorado. They recently put out their fourth album called Deceiver on Nov. 19, 2021 through Nuclear Blast. For me, Khemmis is one of the best bands going today. It’s a great opportunity for them because touring with a huge band like Mastodon is great exposure. Opening for Opeth and Mastodon is a good way to keep growing a bigger following since their sound should appeal to fans of both bands. If Khemmis keeps going they definitely will be headliners in the future.
Mastodon is on tour supporting their latest record they put out last October called Hushed and Grim. It’s a double album. I first saw Mastodon on Sept. 9, 2017 headlining at the Metro in Chicago with Powermad and Brain Tentacles. It was one of the best shows I ever saw. Mastodon were amazing that night and blew me away. Their playing is so incredible. I’ve been wanting to see them live again since then. I remember buying their second album Leviathan around the time it released as a freshman in high school, which was put out by Relapse Records. Back then I used to order CDs from Relapse’s mail catalog. That’s probably how I found out about the band. It’s funny because at the time I didn’t care for Leviathan. I was still getting deeper into metal and was mostly into classic thrash bands at that point so Mastodon sounded weird to me. Fast forward to my early 20s when I discovered them again with Once More ‘Round the Sun. I realized that Mastodon are actually amazing and my younger self missed out.
I haven’t listened to a lot of Opeth besides owning their 1998 album My Arms, Your Hearse that I bought many years ago but don’t remember much from. They put out their last album before the pandemic called In Cauda Venenum in September 2019. It’s fun to check out bands new to me live though because that’s really where you get the true feel of them.
Since my last concert I feel like a completely different person. It feels like several lifetimes ago. In a lot of ways I don’t recognize myself, but in a good way from a lot of personal growth. It’s a different feeling to go to these shows now since I’m in a much different place. It felt great to be at a show again, with all the energy and people there that’s unique to metal music in particular. I was kind of rusty though, which came into effect when Mastodon played.
This concert actually got moved from the Aragon Ballroom to The Riviera Theatre. The fees and taxes for the show were even more ridiculous than usual. It ended up being almost a third of the cost of the actual concert at $17.31. There was one labeled, “Convenience Fee-Web” at $11.73, like buying something online in 2022 is a novelty. It’s a bunch of crap. I’m sure the bands are seeing none of that money either.
I got in line around the building at around 6:15pm. Parking in the area was hard to find since it’s all neighborhood spots. I would usually take public transportation and hop on the CTA train to get to these shows. However in the past two years the CTA has gone to complete trash, with incredibly long wait times and a big increase in robberies/assaults around the trains and on the streets of Chicago in general. I’m not trying to stand around for an hour for a train or get shot going to a concert so I’d rather just take my car at this point for more convenience. I parked next to this huge cemetery on Lawrence Avenue. It was kinda weird walking so close next to all these graves of people born in the 1850s at basically eye level right next to the sidewalk.
The doors were supposed to open at 6 with the show starting at 7. When I got there the line stretched from the front of the building all the way around the corner and down the street on Lawrence Avenue. The weather was a typical Chicago forecast, gloomy and kind of cold. Someone came out the building near where I was in line and talked to some people on the street about them not being able to scan any tickets. The tickets were in this app called AXS that I had never used before. I was worried that I would completely miss Khemmis but about 10 minutes later the line started moving. I got to the front of the stage at 6:38pm. Inside the venue there were only like two rows of people in front of me by the stage so I got there early enough.
Most of the band merch was pretty expensive. Khemmis only had one shirt out for sale for $40. Before the pandemic, for a band like that I think shirts would go for $20. Musicians and artists were some of hardest hit by Covid so I understand why everything went up. They gotta make their money back, especially with tours and dates getting constantly canceled or moved around. I’m guessing nowadays bands make no money on music streaming or album sales, so I’d imagine a lot of their income is from touring and merchandise. There were several Mastodon and Opeth shirts that were also $40 each. They also had hoodies for $75 and an exclusive Mastodon poster made for this show for $80. Mastodon’s tour shirt cost $40. The poster was cool and I kind of regret not buying it. There were some vinyl for sale too, which I think were signed by the guys from Mastodon.
This was my fourth time officially seeing Khemmis, although the first time I only caught the ending of their set in February 2018 when they opened for Enslaved at the Metro. This night they played a tight 30 minute set consisting of five songs, two from their latest album and another one they released during the pandemic.
Mercyful Fate’s song “Evil” started playing a lot louder over the room at 6:55. I wonder if this is Khemmis’ intro song they use on tour. If it is, it’s definitely a killer entrance track. A guy near me tried very loudly hitting King Diamond’s high pitch scream he does at the beginning of the song. He actually did a pretty decent job. A couple people looked at him like he was crazy and didn’t know what he was doing. C’mon. You’re at a metal show and you don’t know who the mighty Mercyful Fate and King Diamond are? You’re doing it wrong. Khemmis came on stage right after the song ended.
The singer Phil Pendergast looked like a completely different guy. Last time I saw Khemmis in July 2019 he had really short hair and a beard. Now he’s got long hair and a mustache. He kind of reminded me of mid to late ’70s Tony Iommi during the height of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. The band has a new bass player too, unless the previous guy also went through a massive physical transformation during the pandemic. Pendergast and Ben Hutcherson, the lead guitarist, were both rocking some sick flying V guitars.
Both of the new songs from Deceiver sounded awesome live. They opened with “Avernal Gate” and the third song was “Living Pyre.” Khemmis closed their set with “A Conversation with Death,” a song they first released in 2017 that got included on the album Doomed Heavy Metal they put out in April 2020. The other two songs they played were “Three Gates” and “Isolation” from their albums Hunted and Desolation. I love Khemmis and especially seeing them play live. Even though their set was short they still killed. I wish they played longer this night.
By the end of Khemmis’ set the place was super packed on the floor and in the upper balcony area. The ground floor got really tight with people, to the point where you could barely move. The show had to have been sold out with a few thousand people there. I really like The Riviera. One day I’ll sit up in the balcony for a show to get that full scope, aerial experience but I prefer to be as close to the stage as possible.
Opeth were really good live. I don’t know much about them other than they’re a Swedish metal band who plays what you could call melodic/progressive death metal. The lights went off at 7:55pm for some cool visual effects on stage and the band appeared a few minutes later. There wasn’t a pit going during the set at all. Mikael Åkerfeldt, the lead singer and guitarist, did a great performance. It impressed me how his vocals changed from clean singing to death metal growling, even sometimes within the same song. He’s got a dry sense of humor too. He actually talked a lot between songs and was pretty funny. At one point he randomly talked about some new blood disease like ebola that you get from ticks called “cream condor” or something like that. He has a Swedish accent so it was hard to make out the exact phrase. He said he liked the combination of those two words and it would make a great band name. He also took a fan’s card promoting their own music before going into the third song “Cusp of Eternity,” which I thought was really cool of him to do.
The songs Opeth played were long but didn’t drag on. They did eight songs total. “Ghost of Perdition” was great live, which was the second song they played. Songs like “The Devil’s Orchard” and “Sorceress” were shorter but had a different vibe to them. The bass playing was put on pretty thick throughout the night. They had a keyboardist as well, which I liked because it reminds of the ’60s and ’70s rock bands. Before playing “In My Time of Need,” Åkerfeldt talked about the song and their 2003 Damnation album. He said that he always liked the ballads from Judas Priest and Led Zeppelin. When they released the album he said he thought it wasn’t suitable for a metal crowd but people still liked it anyway. It’s a good song that the crowd sang along to.
Opeth ended their set at 9:14pm. The last song “Deliverance” was great live. The guitar solo in the song just ripped. I’m going to have to check out the rest of their music. Opeth come across as a very creative and artistic band that’s playing a form of metal combined with other genre elements. Not having ever seen them before, they made a strong impression and are really talented musicians.
Both Opeth and Mastodon had a lot of special visual and video effects on the wall behind them as well as on the stage. These effects and lighting changed for each song. There were different scenes and artwork that appeared on the big screen behind the bands. It was a cool experience and added to the show.
The lights went off for Mastodon at 9:41pm. The first mosh pit of the night for Mastodon kicked off almost immediately when they opened with “Pain With an Anchor” from their new album. “Blood and Thunder” from Leviathan ended their set, which really rocked hard and had the craziest pit of the night. The first several songs from Mastodon went by in a blur. “Crystal Skull” from Blood Mountain and “Megalodon” from Leviathan were so heavy. They did 14 songs in total. “Bladecatcher” from Blood Mountain was the sixth song they played. That’s a great song live, especially with the crazy guitar playing. They did “Black Tongue” from The Hunter after that. The new songs from Hushed and Grim sounded phenomenal. I loved seeing them play “The Crux” and “Pushing the Tides” from that album live. They played like half their set with the new songs. Usually you don’t want to see most of the show from a band’s new album but Mastodon pulled it off well.
I kind of forgot you have to watch yourself at these types of gigs because of the crowd. You might get knocked down from the force of everyone shoving and going wild. I didn’t feel like moshing or throwing down in the pit but just wanted to watch the bands play. I almost got completely knocked over a few times from the people behind me just going crazy. There was a lot people getting pushed towards the front or moved across the room as the pit got bigger. That’s the risk you take by being so close to the stage. The pit grew pretty large and kept going through Mastodon’s whole set. Half the time Mastodon played you had to keep your eye on the pit and then on the band so you wouldn’t get wrecked. There was also some crowd surfing going on but no stage diving as there was a barricade seperating the stage from the audience.
During Mastodon I got beer spilled all on my jacket and probably Covid germs all over me too. I don’t know how people were leaving to go get beer in the middle of Mastodon playing and then coming back with like two or three in hand expecting those cups to still be full, given how everyone was moshing and going crazy in such a tight space. The energy and chaotic nature of the show makes the night better and more memorable though. Mastodon played about an hour and a half, ending at around 11pm. The drummer Brann Dailor talked to everyone afterwards. He said they’ve been coming to Chicago for over 20 years and played one of their first shows at Fireside Bowl in the city. Mastodon absolutely destroyed and were fantastic live. Their playing and muscianship are almost unmatched by other bands.
The night ended with some great pizza from J.B. Albertos. As I walked outside there was literally a pizza truck parked right by the curb in front of The Riv. A guy was selling boxes and slices of pizza straight out of this truck, like it had some oven inside it or something. I’ve seen him after the shows before. It’s a genius idea really. He was even accepting Apple Pay. That man was ready to make money. He probably made a killing because there were a lot of people hanging around eating pizza. The slice was six bucks and I had just enough singles that emptied my wallet. It was one of the best slices I ever ate and not just because I was hungry after the show. If you’re in the Chicago area you have to check this place out and get some pizza.
It was a great first concert to be back in the groove of things. I’m definitely feeling older going to these shows though. Khemmis and Mastodon are two bands that I’ll always try to see if they’re on tour.