Two years ago, Slipknot and KoRn kicked off the big tours of 2015 with one of the great rock and metal arena tours of recent times. Almost two years to the day those bands destroyed Wembley Arena, Avenged Sevenfold arrived in the capital to bring The Stage world tour to London’s grandest stage, The O2 Arena. Accompanied by heavyweight names in the shape of Disturbed and In Flames, it promised to be one hell of an evening.
Any thoughts that melodic Swedish metal veterans In Flames (8) were there to make up the numbers and collect an easy paycheck were dispelled straight from the off when they opened with a blistering Bullet Ride, a song now so old it’s almost legally able to drink in the UK. When not headlining In Flames can be a bit unreliable on occasions but clearly their first full UK arena tour had relit a collective fire under the band (pun intended) as they were excellent throughout their 35 minute set. Old favourites like the always wonderful Cloud Connected and Leeches meshed well with the two singles from In Flames’ latest album Battles, The End and The Truth. Wrapping it up with the traditional closer Take This Life, one was left definitely wanting more.
In this reviewer’s ideal situation, In Flames and Disturbed (6) would have had their slots reversed, a view probably held in the small minority judging by the thunderous reception that greeted David Draiman and friends. Whilst it is my opinion that Disturbed are a band who’ve made a very successful career out of a handful (at best) of good songs, it is begrudingly undeniable that there were several impressive things about them on this cold night at The O2.
The production was particularly impressive with pyro all over the place; indeed I’ve seen many arena headline sets with far less production than this, and this was coming from “the main support band”. Musically the first half of Disturbed hour long set was pretty turgid, but it turned on their now very well known cover of The Sound Of Silence where David Draiman sounded magifnicent. The crowd reaction to The Light was equally impressive with virtually the entire arena having mobiles or lighters in the air on command, while Stricken raised memories of many an hour spent on Guitar Hero 3 in years gone by.
The reaction to the obligatory closing Down With The Sickness was incendiary, as one might have expected with many circle pits and the loudest singalong of the night so far. It has to be said, I went into this show expecting to hate every second of Disturbed (Down With The Sickness aside), and while they still won’t go into my regular listening rotation, parts of the performance were enjoyable.
Regardless of all that went before, as soon as the intro to The Stage kicked in, it was clear that this was going to be Avenged Sevenfold’s (9) night. With an opening salvo of The Stage, Afterlife and Hail To The King, M Shadows and co had the audience in the palm of their hands and didn’t let go for the next two hours plus.
With The Stage being Avenged Sevenfold’s seventh album, getting the selist balance will have been a difficult task. But A7X managed it well, finding space for plenty of new material such as Sunny Disposition and God Damn. These were balanced out very well with the likes of Buried Alive, Nightmare, and a one-two blast from the past in the shape of To End The Rapture and Chapter Four.
The much discussed staging including “The Cube” was used to great effect throughout the show. In particular it saw use towards the end of the main set for a thunderous “Planets” (at which point the cube moved forward to reveal a gigantic spaceman) and then for the main set closing Acid Reign.
The encore will have been just perfect for a huge amount of Avenged fans. Bat Country, a spellbinding rendition of A Little Piece Of Heaven and a chaos inducing Unholy Confessions. Ultimately, this was the biggest modern day metal band on the planet doing what they do best in front of the sold out biggest arena in the UK, and doing it superbly. Whilst it would have been nice to have a couple of other songs included (Beast & The Harlot, So Far Away – both of which were included the following night) – you very rarely get to have everything. We would be absolutely amazed if Avenged Sevenfold and “The Stage World Tour” isn’t headlining a UK festival in 2018 somewhere. Based on this, we eagerly await the return of A7X!