AVENGED SEVENFOLD – Bringing “The Stage” to the Manchester Arena
with Special Guests DISTURBED and IN FLAMES
Review by Mark Dean || Photos by Christopher James Ryan
Avenged Sevenfold in a sudden whirlwind of publicity and strategic marketing released their seventh album The Stage when the world apparently didn’t even know that the band were recording one. They quickly announced a world tour which marked the bands return to the UK -this time playing arenas with special guests, Disturbed and In Flames. Following their recent cover version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic “Sound of Silence,” Disturbed themselves are also riding a huge crest of publicity. The song having opened new markets and a broader fan base for the band. It was therefore no surprise at all that ticket sales were snapped up for the arena tour. Opening band on the package would be Swedish metallers, In Flames – a band with an established fan base who should also receive a positive audience response and generate healthy ticket sales.
Unfortunately, having attended many shows at Manchester Arena in recent years, the opening band on the bill always encounter problems with the early doors. When I arrived at the arena there was however a healthy crowd gathering which was encouraging. Having witnessed several opening bands playing to low audience numbers, this would not be the case fortunately this evening. I often wondered about the commercial benefits of taking a tour of such a nature where you would be playing to sparse crowd numbers. Entering the arena there did seem to be a decent crowd of several hundred In Flames fans who were enthusiastic and quite vocal while they waited for the arrival of the band. In Flames are a band that I have heard a lot of but have never actually witnessed in a live setting. The band have certainly been busy since their formation in terms of playing live and releasing music. This tour the band would be highlighting material from their album “Battles,” which was released in 2016.
Opening with “Bullet Ride” from Clayman, released in 2000, was quite a surprise. However, my prediction that the band had still managed to attract a hardcore of fanatics proved correct as the audience that were present early doors in the venue immediately engaged and proved to be surprisingly vociferous in their approval and response. Next up saw the band rip through an electric version of “Where the Dead Ships Dwell,” with its shades of electronic elements. Frontman Anders Fridén must have been guzzling on energy drinks preshow instead of his onstage banter which referred to beers and whiskey. The band members were very engaging as they clocked up the stage miles, even using the ego ramp of the headliners, Avenged Sevenfold. Track 3 was from the 2006 album Come Clarity, as the brutal smash of “Leeches” crushed the audience. Several, albeit small, circle pits had appeared in the audience despite the proclamations from the stage that the UK audiences were noticeably quieter than their counterparts in other countries. The band’s latest album wasn’t actually featured until the fourth track, with the appearance of “The End”- this was more appealing from a neutral observation with his catchy and more melodic vocal refrain on the chorus. I also liked the band’s playing of “The Cloud Connected” with its more melodic and trance melodies…wrapped up with another huge chorus. The band seemed to be dipping into their entire back catalogue of releases and playing essentially a greatest hits and fan-friendly selection. Initial viewing of the band and despite not usually being a fan of the two shades vocal style, I concluded with much head nodding that In Flames had certainly won me over as a new convert to their musical cause. Returning to the band’s most recent album with “The Truth” – a more melodic-driven anthem with a huge backing chorus. There was even some elements of electronica/dance appearing in that tune. Certainly, no doubting the technical prowess of the band’s twin guitar attack on that number. Some crowd surfers had now appeared as the band tore into one of their older numbers, “Paralyzed” quickly followed by “Deliver Us” as energy levels were taken up several notches by both the band and their audience. This number saw a few fans singing along as audience numbers had noticeably increased by this stage. Finishing their set, which seemed to have flown by, with their traditional closer “Take This Life” served as a huge and powerful crushing farewell to the Manchester audience as In Flames took what was a difficult early evening slot and smashed it. Succeeding in the eye of the storm in delivering a fully entertaining and energetic performance.
Suitably warmed up in a cold and almost full arena, there was just a short stage turn around before the Disturbed stage crew began to add their pyro apparatus. Last time I saw Disturbed was in a swamp at a UK Festival in the middle of summer. Unfortunately, on that occasion the natural weather elements took over and made short work of the expected delivered sonic overload. I felt sure that Disturbed would certainly prove worthy of their “special guests” billing. Opening with the instrumental first track from their latest album Immortalized, the band started into “Eye of the Storm” with its melodic guitar intro before moving into the brutality of the album’s title track – and the visual spectacle was underway.
A powerful vocal performance from the sombre dark attired ringmaster, David Draiman. The Disturbed setlist was essentially the same as their recent live album, as they only had an hour to slay the amassed Manchester metal devotees. Essentially an overview of their career to date, with tracks from their earliest albums right through to last year’s release, Immortalized. There were mellow moments for the crowd to get their breath, such as the “Light” and that already referenced cover “The Sound of Silence.” These two melodic tunes were in sharp contrast to the rest of their set which was hard-hitting, powerful, and in-your-face brutal sonic attacks. During the band’s set, there were regular face melting flames – a characteristic of their live shows, but no less impressive visually. The band had excellently fulfilled their special guest status and had certainly raised the bar extremely high for Avenged Sevenfold to follow. They also had generated an almost euphoric response from a packed Manchester Arena. Finishing with the double whammy of “Ten Thousand Fists” and “Down with the Sickness,” it wasn’t just the band that was left exhausted. Fantastic live experience and quite simply a very powerful performance.
Another short stage turn around and then it was time for the evening’s headliners. Despite Avenged Sevenfold having released seven albums, apart from a couple of songs (yes, the Guitar Hero ones) they had largely passed me by – that was until their recent album release of The Stage. Quickly and surprisingly released under the band’s own steam following an ongoing legal dispute with a former record label, it made quite an instant impact with me personally. Simply one of the best albums that I have heard in quite some time. I was intrigued. Would they be able to deliver a show performance worth of Arena headliners, I mused? An expansive visual feature with many video screens ensured nobody even from the furthest point of the upper tiers would miss any of their show. There was also a ramp that extended into the crowd, and two on-stage small pit areas which contained fans who had paid for a VIP experience with the band.
All seven Avenged Sevenfold albums were adequately represented as the band’s set covered a diverse range of songs. Latest album “The Stage,” as expected, featured the most with no less than five from that release. The band’s hits or better known numbers were also featured in a set of eighteen songs. Fan age was surprisingly diverse as I had expected a primarily teen audience. It also received quite simply one of the loudest audience reactions that I had personally witnessed at the concert venue. Attention span was maintained throughout the band’s performance. The musicians’ virtuosity and musical dexterity was illustrated in the age-old style of instrumental solo spots during the evening’s proceedings. Entertainment was delivered by one of the new top bands in the rock genre. I thoroughly enjoyed all three bands in this rock package which had proved to be more versatile than I had initially expected. A thoroughly satisfying show, I’ll look forward to attending sets in the future from all three of the individual bands.