After releasing their first concept album entitled The Stage in 2016, heavy metal kings, Avenged Sevenfold, have continued their world tour into 2018 with a stop at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre as their proverbial stage for January 22nd. This is the band’s second trip to Ontario within six months after an opening set for Metallica at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in July.
Kicking things off for the night were Pennsylvanian rockers, Breaking Benjamin, with a 60-minute opening set of alternative post-grunge anthems. The hour was highlighted by tunes such as “Sooner or Later,” “Failure” and an interesting hard rock medley that started with “The Imperial March” from Star Wars and transitioned into covers of Tool’s “Schism,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Pantera’s “Walk.” There was a very special moment where frontman Benjamin Burnley invited some fans on stage. In particular, one teenager who had told him an inspiring story before the show, he asked to stand with him at the front of the catwalk as they performed their set closing number, “Diary of Jane.”
Avenged Sevenfold opened with the eight-minute epic title-track “The Stage,” setting the pace early for their frenetic marathon 120-minute set. The sprint continued with lengthy head-banging crowd-pleasers like “Afterlife,” “Hail to the King,” and “Beast and the Harlot.” Occasionally the crowd was allowed to rest during a transitional guitar solo from lead guitarist Synyster Gates, but then was right back to 100 mph.
A7X’s stage itself was quite impressive, spanning the length (not width) of the arena and bringing them that much closer to the audience. Half-a-dozen mega screens hung above the stage with backing visuals of skulls, graveyards and all other things heavy metal. Near the end of the main set, a giant inflated spaceman rose from behind the drum kit for the song “Higher,” with visuals of planets and stars, giving you the feeling of being an insignificant dust particle on an infinitely larger stage of our galaxy.
After the spaceman had landed, rhythm guitarist, Zacky Vengeance, appeared on his own with an acoustic guitar, leading the band into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” A slightly more calming tempo than we were used to by then. The peace didn’t last however as A7X concluded the set with their breakthrough hit “Bat Country,” from 2007’s City of Evil.
As Avenged Sevenfold returned for an encore, frontman M. Shadows asked, “What do you want to hear next?” There was a unanimous response for “A Little Piece of Heaven,” a bizarre and quirky show tune-inspired song about necrophilia. To which Shadows replied, “You set list-looking cheater motherf*ckers!” After the eight-minute journey, A7X wrapped up the night in traditional fashion with “Unholy Confessions,” their first single from 2003.