They’re supposed to be the band that purists love to hate, but not just anyone gets billed above Disturbed. Following the hugely positive release of their seventh studio album, The Stage, is anyone still questioning Avenged Sevenfold’s right to sit amongst the contemporary heavy metal elite? Hail to the king, indeed.
Sunday’s performance marked both the end of Avenged Sevenfold’s UK tour and a double booking at London’s 02 Arena but first up were Swedish outfit, In Flames, whose sound and energy certainly impressed. Frontman, Anders Fridén, didn’t have the largest crowd to work with, but still managed to incite his fair share of crowd participation during the fleeting set – including multiple circle pits.
A few more bodies filter in for Disturbed’s set, whereby a spotlight illuminates a lone Dan Donegan who sets into the crying electric guitar-led instrumental, The Eye of the Storm.
A flourish of pyrotechnics and stage lights reveal the rest of the band and the crowd, too, erupts into life for the title track of Disturbed’s latest album, Immortalized [sic]. The presence of frontman David Draiman could never populate the closed top tier of seating, nor the still sparsely populated lower tier, but the crowd’s reaction may have fooled one otherwise.
The entire crowd appears to fist pump, head-bang, or (at the very least) nod their heads along with Disturbed’s infectious and unrelenting rhythm. The fast paced first half includes 2015’s The Vengeful One, and a trio of tracks from the band’s 2000 debut, The Sickness – Voices, Stupify, and The Game.
Draiman’s presence is as imposing as ever. His trench coat clad frame strides about the stage, each movement as smooth and calculated as the other. He slowly raises his arms and lifts back his head as if blessing the crowd, whilst plumes of fire erupt every which way. At one point he meets the crowd at the foot of the walkway and addresses them: “My brothers and sisters, my blood. Speak to me!” His stage presence is unrivalled throughout the entire night, but his vocal performance is also top-notch, too.
A truly beautiful rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence highlights Draiman’s vocal capacity, complete with Donegan at the helm of a baby grand piano. Before too long the crowd are invited to illuminate the arena by the torchlight of their mobile phones during the chorus of The Light. It’s truly a spectacle, and one of the highlights of the entire evening.
By the time the inevitable Down with the Sickness brings Disturbed’s set to an end, it’s almost a shame – almost, because next up – Avenged Sevenfold.
The auditorium still isn’t close to full capacity, with a sizeable portion of empty seats, but the standing section is suitably packed. Elton John’s Rocket Man is played to the crowd before the late David Bowie’s – unsurprisingly well received – Space Oddity. The two tracks are reference to the band’s new cosmic-themed album, The Stage.
After a short introduction projected across multiple screens the band’s ‘Deathbat’ logo fades into view. Lead guitarist, Synyster Gates, is first to appear as he launches into the unmistakable intro riff of the new title track. Last out is frontman, M Shadows, who receives a huge roar of approval from the crowd.
Each of the evening’s acts have sounded suitably clear, but Gates’ crisp lead tones notably scythe through the band’s meaty rhythm section, and M Shadows’ doesn’t have to struggle over the melee of drum, guitar, and crowd. As the band slips into Afterlife it’s clear that the audience is entirely on their side, but it’s Hail to the King that really highlights the evening’s tone.
The title track from Avenged Sevenfold’s 2013 album is met with a frenzy of cheers as M Shadows teases that if the crowd cheers loud enough, Synyster Gates might mess-up the demanding intro riff: “… because we’ll make him play it forever if we have to,” he jokes. Audience participation hasn’t been this enthusiastic all night, as the entire arena appears to fist-pump the air and shout “Hail, hail, hail” along with the band – as Gates strides along the walkway, performing a faultless solo.
Another new track, Paradigm, follows, before the band surely pleases long-time fans with a performance of To End the Rapture, from their debut album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet (2001). Next up is two songs from two other albums: Second Heartbeat and Buried Alive. Shadows’ screaming vocals on the former prove particularly impressive, since the band has favoured cleaner vocals of late.
The setlist changes slightly from the previous night – something Shadows thoughtfully attributes to returning fans. And, I can’t help but feel that anybody who attended the first night in favour of the second missed out, because the performance of So Far Away was probably the most enjoyable moment of the entire evening. Dedicated to lost founding member, Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, it’s a brilliant performance, with M Shadows’ emotionally charged vocals starring. The arena is bathed in torchlight as audience members slowly wave their mobile phones in response to the hauntingly beautiful ballad.
Beast and the Harlot is met with a hugely positive response, especially when M Shadows confesses that it hadn’t been played the night before – much to the dismay of the previous evening’s crowd. The fan favourite is sandwiched between God Damn and Sunny Disposition, the final two The Stage tracks of the performance.
An instrumental version of Warmness on the Soul makes for an excellent display of both rhythm guitarist, Zacky Vengeance, and Synyster Gates’ chemistry. Two tracks from Hail to the King finish the set, Planets and Acid Rain. Fittingly, a giant inflatable spaceman prop fills the back of the stage during Planets.
Surely every member of the crowd has been waiting for Bat Country and A Little Piece of Heaven, and the band doesn’t disappoint. The epic eight-minute A Little Piece of Heaven proves a devilishly fun performance, with the much loved animated music video projected on screen, too. In fact, it’s a shame that the The Rev’s twisted tongue-in-cheek love story didn’t end the show, because Unholy Confessions couldn’t come close to eclipsing it and, indeed, that’s when some audience members began to file out.
Those that turned up on a cold Sunday night to watch Avenged Sevenfold wrap up their UK tour were gifted a fantastic performance, with plenty of fan service. Kudos to the band for performing with such gusto, despite areas of sparsely populated seating. The introduction of several gems into the setlist – including a heartfelt and simply stunning rendition of So Far Away – made the night a real celebration, not just of the new album, but the band’s successes since their 2001 album debut.