Live!: Avenged Sevenfold w/ Disturbed & In Flames – Manchester Arena 16/01/2017
Avenged Sevenfold released their seventh studio album, The Stage, with little pre-promotion, but plenty of critical acclaim, in October 2016. In keeping with the futuristic theme of the album, the Huntington Beach rockers called upon the talents of Cirque du Soleil to help design their touring stage. Along for the ride for all the European dates are Disturbed and opening the show in the UK are Sweden’s own In Flames.
The packed queues to get into the arena as doors opened proved how good of a decision it was to have In Flames open proceedings. Bullet Ride from 2000’s Clayman kicks things off and shows that the Swedes have come to make a statement. What follows is a thirty minute set that covers nine different albums, including a couple of tracks from their most recent album, Battles. Opening acts in arenas tend to get a raw deal, usually having to battle against a limited stage area and/or an apathetic crowd but fortunately, In Flames faced neither of these issues and showed just how good they can be. It’s just a pity they couldn’t play longer.
Disturbed are a band that I’ve never really been able to get into but I had heard good things about this live show. With an hour long set, they had the time to really settle in and make themselves at home. Dan Donegan takes centre stage to play the opening riff from The Eye of the Storm before the rest of the band takes to the stage and then things really start to take off. At various points during the set, some serious pyro flames are unleashed to add dramatic effect and it really works well, getting some proper reactions from the crowd. The band sound very good and David Draiman’s vocals sit just right in the mix. The expected cover of The Sound of Silence appears mid-set, showcasing Draiman’s vocal range perfectly. Down With the Sickness closes off the set and leaves everyone well and truly warmed up for what’s to follow.
As the first chords of The Stage rattle around the arena, the drapes are removed and the scale of the Cirque du Soleil designed stage is revealed. Consisting of eight segmented projection screens and a giant cube hanging over drummer Brooks Wackerman, these elements would be showing an array of images throughout the night, from live camera feeds of the band to floating eyeballs, disembodied dolls heads and various space related graphics. From the off the band are in show mode, getting to every part of the large stage and making sure everybody in the audience is involved.
Musically, it’s hard to find fault with the band. They are very tight, well-rehearsed and the sound is exceptional. The drums are driving without overpowering, Synyster Gates’ solos are crisp and clear and M. Shadows vocals are right where you’d want them. For Angels, the giant cube slides down a track to hover over Shadows at the end of the ego ramp while he delivers a performance that calls to mind a mixture of Chris Cornell and Scott Weiland. Nightmare kicks things back into high gear and sees a multitude of pits break out across the floor. The cube is on the move again for Planets, this time revealing an astronaut floating at the back of the stage, but due to the placement of the spaceman and the cube, I’m not sure everyone in the venue could see him. Downbeat track Acid Rain rounds off the main set before a triple whammy of Bat Country, A Little Piece of Heaven and Unholy Confessions brings the curtain down on tonight’s performance.
Overall, it’s an impressive spectacle, with a good mix of audio and visuals that works well in an arena. On a personal level, I think I expected a bit more theatrics when I heard Cirque du Soleil were involved in the overall design, but I was obviously in the minority as the ecstatic masses that left the arena can testify to.
© John Gilleese. All images are subject to copyright laws. All rights reserved.