It has been 3 years since Avenged Sevenfold took to the stage in Hershey, Pennsylvania and much has changed since. Musically, the band has released another album titled ‘The Stage’ that showcased a wide level of creativity and innovation to their iconic metal/punk/rock sound. Avenged Sevenfold has always focused on existing in between the folds of genre labels and ‘The Stage’ continued that musical theme for them. The world is a different place as well as a year of tragedy’s have gripped music goers since Avenged Sevenfold was last in town; the result was in increased security presents with airport style screenings at every entrance. But with every ounce of change there has to be a constant to counter balance the forces of chaos and Avenged Sevenfold’s constant are their fans. On a Tuesday night nearly 8,000 people wrapped around the Giant Center to see two bands come together for a one off show before joining up with the Metallica tour the next time in Baltimore. This show was set to be special, it wasn’t part of a tour in the fact that it is a stand alone date so the sets would be long and the fans would get to hear a more robust set from all the bands.
The night began with a set from home-state metal icons Motionless in White, who have never played the Giant Center before. The band just released their newest effort ‘Graveyard Shift,’ the album’s lead single LOUD also made it into the band’s set that night as the second song of their seven song set. Chris Motionless may have taken the stage with a smile as he thanked the Hershey crowd but he switched into the role of the performer moments later as he belted out the opening lyrics of “America” to a crowd that was very eager to sing a long.
The addition of Motionless in White to this show was very strategic move, there were tons of fans in the crowd who seemingly came out just to support their home state metal heroes. There was no denying that even those in the crowd with Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat shirts enjoyed the show as they sang along to many of the songs through out the set. In seven songs Motionless in White did what many support acts struggle to do and that was engage the crowd. From candy, to water guns and mosh pits Motionless in White tossed an early Halloween party before they left the stage for the crew to get ready for the arrival of the world’s loudest band hailing from the country of Denmark, Volbeat.
After a melodic western intro, the legendary Denmark rockers emerged with their guitars truly cranked up past 11. A quick scan on a handheld decibel reader for a smartphone picked up that the first song of the night peaked at over 120DB, in four years of covering shows no one has gotten quite that loud in an arena setting. While loud doesn’t always mean good it did in Volbeat’s case. Michael Poulsen’s vocals were as crisp as ever as he belted out the intricate and complex verses that the band is known for. The sheer level of technical prowess that the band displays while performing could be looked to as an industry standard for the genre, while this show may have been a supporting slot it was treated (as every show is for them) as a headliner.
Humble – is the best word and the first word that comes to mind when reflecting on what Volbeat brought for the Giant Center this week. An explanation of that concept exists across their music but more so as musicians as every song was greeted with thanks from the band as they truly appreciated everyone in the crowd who came out to see them. Their fans roared back each time at them and it became a trend the entire set. From “Lola Montez” to the newer single “Black Rose” the band rocked in every sense of the word and when they walked off stage they left a ringing in everyone’s ears that would serve as a 48 hour memory of what just took place. But – there was more, the main event was yet to take place as Avenged Sevenfold was yet to take ‘The Stage’ to the Hershey crowd.
The tension was palpable in the air as excitement for Avenged Sevenfold griped the crowd in the moments before the start of their set. The band’s stage was colossal and it spanned the length of the Giant Center with massive LED displays. The lights went dark and the screens dimly began to come to life with an illumination of outer space that transformed into a depiction of the band’s well known bat logo. More lights powered on as a yellow blanket of light wrapped around Synyster Gates as he began the night with the opening riffs of “The Stage” as the band began to join him from each side of the stage.
M. Shadows shouted to the Hershey Crowd as he ran down the massive thrust stage to almost the midpoint of the arena as the band dove into a nearly ten minute song to get the night started. Pyro began to flicker to life as they tore into “Afterlife” and it continued into “Hail To The King” that was dedicated to a fan in the front row who had such a legendary afro that M. Shadows dedicated the song to him and he caused Gates to mess up the intro of the song which gave both the crowd and the band a laugh.
From there out Synyster Gates returned to form with effortless looking and borderline his nonchalant handling of the guitar, a trait that other musicians could study from. Never did he appear winded, never did he appear challenged as he quite honestly bet the guitar and the sound to his will with such an ease it comes across as inhuman at times. M. Shadows was rarely far away as he belted out chorus and breakdown a like at the band’s first US show in some time. Shadows vocals over the years have been criticized as fading out but there can be nothing but praise and compliment delivered to him for this performance. Whether the song was new or old Shadows nailed the vocal delivery with the cadence and style that he has always been known for.
The constant, the fans was we explained earlier, were as much a part of the show as the insane stage production or the band. Young, old, all sizes and shapes; coming together for their favorite bands. Some had tattoos, some didn’t, some wore black, some wore neon blue – there was no judgement once they were inside as they were all one people of metal for a few hours at least. The front row was a crew of characters all with a story of why the show was important to them, the same goes for those who ended up in the back of the house in the nosebleeds. Everyone had an Avenged Sevenfold story or moment that brought to the show and unified them as fans. It was stunning to watch as this shared bond created an atmosphere that was electric with energy and extremely engaged with the band’s performance from start to finish.
You can catch Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat supporting Metallica now but it won’t be the same as what a stand alone show would be – that being said you can expect to see both fans tour this fall as the demand from their fans as never been here. Avenged Sevenfold has changed a lot in the past 3 years; one other constant remains besides their fans and that is that every night they leave it all on ‘The Stage.”
Photo Gallery by Matt Christine