I know I normally write about smaller and folkier kinds of shows most of the time, but when I was a teenager Avenged Sevenfold were easily one of, if not the, favourite band of mine. Therefore, when I heard that they were playing in Sheffield I could not miss the opportunity to go and see them live – something that always eluded me when I was younger; when The Rev died the tickets sold out too quickly, and I never seemed to be around for the nearest dates on subsequent tours. When I heard Disturbed were doing the support set I was even more excited: another band that I loved as a teenager and never got the chance to see live.
Despite the fact that I only knew three of the songs on the Disturbed setlist (which were all right at the end), plus their surprisingly moving cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”, they were good live. They kept my attention even in the songs that I didn’t know; sure, when you’re playing arena shows supporting one of the biggest bands in the world it’s not as if they had anything to prove, but I truly enjoyed their set more than I thought I would. The only thing that bugged me was how much of the audience seemed to be watching it through the screens of their phones, which was only encouraged by David Draiman. Still, the arena was all but packed out for the support which was good to see, unfortunately, as was up in the stalls seated. It wasn’t a bad view, but on such a big show with such tight security I doubted very much my chances of getting down into the standing area like I normally would at a theatre-sized show.
Similarly, as only arena acts can pull off, the merchandise was very overpriced. But still, it was good to see the audience as receptive to Disturbed as to Avenged Sevenfold; I particularly enjoyed Disturbed’s use of “unusual” percussion instruments as well as the standard metal drum kit as well, and the setup of the show was visually stunning, with synchronised flames shooting up into the sky distracting me from the big screens being slightly out of sync – thankfully by Avenged Sevenfold’s set this was fixed. I was sad to see Disturbed finish; Draiman delivered incredibly difficult vocals with surprising ease in their final song, “Down With the Sickness”, and we also got “Stricken” and “Indestructible” so I’m happy on that count.
Photo Credit: Annie Atlasman Photography
Nothing cements my distaste for arena gigs like the interval though. In the cheapest city in the UK, they were selling two pints for the low low price of nearly £10; the queue for the toilets was so long that it reached the next toilets, halfway around the venue. What’s worse: the arena has no wifi, so the only place I could go for internet was the smoking area. At least, to my great surprise, I managed to slip in to the standing area on my way back in to enjoy the headline set properly!
They opened with their new single, “The Stage”, as I thought they might. A little bit of a shame, as this old-school Avenged Sevenfold fan was slightly longing for “Critical Acclaim”; it felt very odd to have an opening song around ten minutes long. It was great to have the music videos playing on a big screen in the centre of the stage whilst the cameras focused nicely on individual band members for the side screens. The thing that struck me almost immediately was how weak in the mix M Shadows’ vocals sounded; for a song that I had only heard once before, they were far too quiet to hear. Maybe it’s just my unfamiliarity with the newer material talking, but the rest of the audience seemed a lot more into it than me by this point. Things did begin to pick up with the familiarity of “Afterlife” though – the vocals were suddenly loud enough and they performed the song well. I am in mixed minds about the backing track usage though: it was nice to hear The Rev’s vocals still there, but then again they had the whole orchestral section playing as well, which is irritating to hear live as I can quite clearly see that they are not playing it live.
Crowd interaction started off well in between the songs, and it was fun to join in with the rest of the arena chanting “Yorkshire” as Shadows talked of the other places they were playing (and mispronounced “Birmingham” in the process). Band interaction was also good, with a “let’s see if I can make (Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance) fuck up the solo”. Despite the occasional headbanger though, the crowd seem much less into it as I slip out during a roll of new songs to refill my beer. As I return, Shadows is now asking who has all seven albums, and his comment to the crowd “where were you when we released our first one and we played to crowds of no one over here” did not seem to go unnoticed. It was a nice surprise to hear “To End the Rapture” from “Sounding the Seventh Trumpet”, as they never seem to play things from the original album live; it was then medlied nicely into “Chapter Four”, which I also enjoyed.
Perhaps I should make that a quip about the audience interaction being great… When it actually happened. By the time we were halfway through the setlist only one speech had been given, which was missed a little by me. The crowd are enjoying the songs, but seem a little bit restless and disconnected from the band; again, probably because of the nature of an arena show. Avenged Sevenfold are giving a good show, but in the songs that I don’t know Disturbed were certainly more interesting to watch. Everyone seems especially bored in the song after “Buried Alive”, which sounds more like a generic rock song than anything Avenged Sevenfold have come out with previously; perhaps this is why they quickly bring “Nightmare” out after it, as a reassurance. It worked, with a beautiful light show and a great polished live sound.
“God Damn” saw the second speech, at last, as well as a big box descend from the roof of the arena above the stage to display even more lights. It felt slightly bizarre, but for a more thrashy song “God Damn” actually sounded quite good, even if I get the feeling that it was included in the setlist at the expense of “Beast and the Harlot” – which definitely seemed to be lacking unjustly from the setlist. The political imagery on the screens was clever though, even if a lot of the music in the newer ones was now starting to sound like they were just playing “The Stage” again.
The old intro speech to “Almost Easy” was definitely appreciated, and suddenly it seemed like they brought up the bass volume by a lot. The audience finally started moving around more during the songs, so by this point I found an opening to slip closer towards the front. It’s a shame that the drum solo was so short, the audience were just starting to enjoy it as they cut it off; though I highly doubt that “they make it different every night” as Shadows claimed. As the main setlist started coming to an end, a big David Bowie-esque space man suddenly inflated and descended over the back of the stage, which looked completely bizarre at an Avenged Sevenfold show; combined with the big light cube it certainly felt like Muse had a hand in designing the stage show for this tour. They had even more overdubs for these songs, and the levels sounded slightly off closer to the front with the band.
The wait for the encore went on far too long and “Bat Country” lasted nowhere near long enough as it seemed like they just sped and ploughed through it as fast as they could. “A Little Piece of Heaven” was just as incredible live as I had heard, even if the crowd seemed to do most of the singing; the dedication to The Rev was a nice touch though. It is always nice to hear a three song encore, though “Beast and the Harlot” would have been far better than “Unholy Confessions” in my opinion; only one song from the “City of Evil” album felt like a bit of a cop out to me, even if a higher proportion of new songs is somewhat mandatory. What bugged me about the end was the commercialism of it all though, with pre-signed setlists covered in fan imagery being handed out seemingly narcissistically, and the huge rush of fans to the front of the stage impossible to escape.
My complaints have probably made the show sound worse than it actually was, and that is not intentional. I enjoyed the show a lot, even if it felt overproduced completely. The band played well, and they put on an entertaining night with some great music, but it was not at all what I expected – both the good and the bad. I would definitely go and see them again, but unfortunately I do find myself wishing that I had the chance to see them five years ago. Oh well.
Photo Credit: Stevie Swarts Photograpy