When My Chemical Romance headlined Download in 2007, they were bottled heavily. Avenged Sevenfold gained just as much, if not more, criticism for being given the chance to top the bill this year despite the obvious facts of a sold out UK arena tour and a #1 album on both sides of the Atlantic. As everyone knows though, headlining a festival is an entirely different beast. This is the final test for the Orange County quintet, the chance to prove they can finally do what every other rock and metal band of the new generation has yet to achieve and crack the UK festival scene. The clock ticks round to nine, Back In Black starts and finishes and the crackle of fire signals the beginning of A7X’s biggest show to date.
And oh my word, WHAT a show.
As Synyster Gates walks up onto the runway and plays the six notes that make up the riff of ‘Shepherd of Fire’, the noise of the crowd reaches fever pitch. The blackout curtains behind him have opened and revealed a huge throne room with differing levels and the obligatory Death bats. The drums from Arin Illejay kick in, the pyros shoot up and Avenged Sevenfold go into overdrive. Their arrogant cock-of-the-walk strut and swagger is perfect tonight as they take us on a tour through pretty much their entire back catalogue, which is now so strong that they can chuck Bat Country out three songs into their set and they don’t flag at all. M Shadows is an utter goliath this evening – note perfect and cementing his place as one of the best frontmen in the entire music world right now (the less said about his hair the better, mind…). His screaming voice is also sounding incredible, none more so than when they play ‘Second Heartbeat’ from 2003’s Waking the Fallen. This isn’t the only deep cut either – we are also treated to ‘Burn It Down’ from City of Evil which hasn’t been played here in almost eight years, probably since they first played Download in 2006. The new songs sound even bigger than usual, and when the title track from Hail to the King sees the middle arch open and reveal a huge skeleton king surveying the scene from his throne, you finally understand the reason they’ve been given the chance to headline the UK’s biggest rock and metal festival. Even Gates’ guitar solo, something that can often be viewed as pointless, is redeemed when he gets everyone singing along to the National Anthem.
Of course, the night cannot go without a mention and dedication to Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan, tonight appearing in the form of ballad ‘So Far Away’ from Nightmare and played so beautifully that it doesn’t leave a dry eye in the crowd. And it’s clear that the band’s former drummer has been listening, for as ‘Nightmare’ the song follows the heavens open for the first time and we have rain for the duration of the song and no more. Pissed on by The Rev, just his sort of humour…
‘Beast and the Harlot’ gets a huge reception after its omission on the December tour and with ‘This Means War’ the main set comes to a beautiful and bombastic finish (seriously, fireworks galore). A first encore of rarity ‘Seize the Day’ and ‘Almost Easy’ is a welcome sight, but even more welcoming is when the band come back out again and drop ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’ in all of its eight minute glory. Cue frenzied singing and throwing of shapes. A rousing ‘Unholy Confessions’ ends everything and as the fireworks shoot up Avenged Sevenfold walk off knowing that they triumphed in style.
What Avenged Sevenfold showcased over two hours was fifteen years in the making, and the full realisation of their dream to take over from Iron Maiden and Metallica on every single level. Rock and metal has a new saviour. Long may they reign upon high.
Setlist (intros/additional info)
Back in Black
Shepherd of Fire
Hail to the King
Burn It Down
So Far Away
Guitar Solo (with ‘God Save the Queen’ snippet)
Beast and the Harlot
This Means War
Seize the Day
A Little Piece of Heaven