The show began with a hanging. The crowd cheered.
We’ll get back to that in a minute. Roughly an hour before the body was hung from the rafters and following a solid, capable performance by veterans Sevendust, Three Days Grace took to the stage. Capturing the attention of the largely teen crowd, the band rode through a complete set of their (remarkably similar) singles, the highlight being 2006’s “Pain.”
An interesting phenomenon developed during the Canadians’ set. To observe the crowd during Three Days Grace was to see a veritable legion of camera phones taking pictures and more curiously, shooting video. What made the act more peculiar was to notice that as the set rolled into five and six songs, the crowd was still diligently following along on their phones, burning to circuits each and every moment of the show. This new trend has been cropping up at more and more concerts recently, and how interesting to observe this new cultural standard. With the advent of hand-held and inexpensive recording devices lining everyone’s pockets, it appears we have become more interested in capturing every moment of our lives than actually living those moments. It could be argued that all of this video is being shot for posterity, and that’s probably true. However, how much posterity can be gleaned from a video shot from as much as a football field away, through a lens that likely has lower resolution than the Zapruder film? Essentially, all that homespun video recording (complete with brassy, awful sound) will provide is proof that whoever shot it attended the event, coupled with an egregious underestimation of the capacity of human memory. Frankly, a ticket stub provides that same value of proof, and I would be willing to wager that a spectator would have better memories of a show if engaged in it, instead of being engaged in viewing it through a two-inch square screen. Okay, that’s the end of the “old man rant” for today.
As the lights dimmed prior to the emergence of the show’s feature performer Avenged Sevenfold, the atmosphere grew electric with anticipation. Unspoken questions lingered as concert goers cast knowing glances to each side. What would the band sound like? What was their chemistry with drummer Arin Ilejay? How would they pay tribute to the late Rev?
Then, as lights dimmed, a man dressed all in black dropped precipitously from the rafters, his body suspended by a single rope...tied around his neck. Not unlike the great public executions of old, the crowd roared their approval as the figure struggled against the rope…fought…fought…and was still. As the chimed intro of new title track “Nightmare” breathed out of the speakers, the symbolism was not lost. While the song details a macabre vision of an evil man’s afterlife nightmare, the hanging also was allegorical of something grander: birth from death for Avenged Sevenfold.
Some of the crowd’s silent curiosities were instantly answered in that opening tune, most of them dealing with Ilejay. Throughout the night, he capably filled the void left by the Rev, and proxy “Nightmare” album drummer Mike Portnoy. The band seemed outwardly comfortable with Ilejay behind the kit, and he played up to their standard and the crowd’s expectations.
A7X thundered through a workman-like hour and twenty minutes, rarely taking breaks while pounding out favorite after favorite. The set’s shining moments came in the three song set of “Welcome to the Family,” into the classic “Almost Easy” into the brooding, haunting “Buried Alive.” Each song was accented with jets of flame from the on-stage engulfed gates (not to be confused with guitarist Synyster Gates,) and some explosive-enhanced percussion.
The crowd had noticed that The Rev, while departed, was still present at the show, his backing vocals being tracked and run through the mix into the speakers. It was after the set’s highlight three-peat that Avenged Sevenfold paid humble, genuine tribute to their fallen friend with an emotional recitation of “So Far Away.”
The show went on as normal after that, eventually closing with breakthrough hit “Bat Country” and a ballistic “Unholy Confessions.”
The crowd that had gathered was amiable, supportive and surprisingly (alarmingly?) well-behaved. There was little in the way of crowd surfing, very little moshing down on the floor, and a strikingly low level of hooliganism overall. While we’re on the subject, Avenged Sevenfold themselves seemed somewhat casual on stage, walking somewhat listlessly around their set pieces and never really exploding with the energy of their music. It was a strange dichotomy to hear crashing metalcore anthems while the band playing them looked much more relaxed.
Where the crowd failed however, was in leaving before the encore. By eyeball, almost ten or fifteen percent of the crowd had decided to play “beat the traffic,” and missed a gripping encore. “Fiction” was wonderfully staged with a piano being played by no one, as The Rev’s keyed riff issued from the ether. It was followed, appropriate, by “Save Me.”
Avenged Sevenfold’s show was a night of raucous joy, humbling grief and implied perseverance. The band shared those emotions with a few thousand of their closest friends.