I went to go see Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed Live with In Flames at the Manchester Arena on Monday the 16th of January 2017.
This was my first ever gig at the Manchester Arena (formerly known as the M.E.N. Arena), and I almost missed it; because I was sat outside the Apollo instead, for 15 minutes like a twat until I realized something was wrong… where was the crowd?
I got myself all confused because ticketmaster sent my ticket to the wrong address and I needed to go to the box office to pick up a replacement and in the stress-scramble I went to the wrong place. I mean, I don’t normally go see arena bands. Too expensive, hard to even get tickets due to the speed they sell out, and when you get there you’d only see a dot on the horizon anyway…. not like in Club Academy where I could see all of Mariusz Duda’s individual nose hairs, that’s how close to the stage you could get. I can’t actually remember even buying these tickets as I did it on my phone, half asleep one morning. I probably wouldn’t have gone if I was awake enough the day I bought tickets. I want to see bands like Kiss and Maiden but the arena puts me off.
Anyway, after a well timed bus, I made it, didn’t have to hang around too long queuing, and got to my assigned seat in time to see all the bands. The arena was weird. Full of hotdogs and slushies and nachos. More like an American cinema or baseball game than a concert I’m used to. They even had candyfloss salesmen wandering up and down the ailes throughout.
I got sat next to on one side a nice civilized married couple and on the other no-one, and In Flames took to the stage to a still half empty venue, because apparently it takes yonks to actually get everyone inside the giant thing.
The band played reasonably well, a reasonably decent collection of tunes that I’d describe as Shadow’s Fall’s direction with more commercial choruses and a slight euro tinge that is explained by their Swedishness. I think it was probably newer material primarily because I know the band used to be a Melodeath band in the ’90s. This stuff didn’t sound all that melodeath. Not that I’d ever heard a full song by the band ever. I remember there was always one of their videos on Scuzz, but I never sat down and watched it. I surfed between MTV2, Q, Kerrang, Scuzz and P-Rock so if there was a song you weren’t sold on, you could always try another channel. I think it might’ve been off of Come Clarity and had a meteor shower in a city as the story, but I don’t remember properly because I never fully watched it.
The singer tried to illicit some laughs, payed homage to Maiden, Saxon and Sabbath and tried to get the crowd going. There was a pretty seizure-inducing light show, and overall it was an ok opening. They didn’t really have the sound or the stage presence to work a big arena who weren’t there for them, but they seem an ok band and I have nothing bad to say about ’em.
In the gap, a bunch of drunk rowdy yobbos came and parked themselves in from of me, drawing lots of attention to themselves and thinking they were hilarious. Shouting ‘Play Down With The Sickness!’ repeatedly even though it was obviously going to be the closer, shouting out spongebob catch phrases and getting up and down repeatedly for beers. They were distracting, but it was so nice to be sat in assigned seating and not have ’em surfing over my head or barging into me. Some people take the hole rock and roll thing a bit too far. …Its good music, but you don’t have to be a drunk buffoon all your life. I know you don’t have to be a crotchety joyless old man like me either, especially when, like me you’re way to young to be an old man, and concerts are supposed to be fun. But shouting bollox, killing your liver and being a big ape isn’t the only way of having fun.
Anyway; Disturbed took to the stage. Disturbed are a band I’m almost embarrassed to like sometimes. When I was young, and they were new, I was like, the only person I knew who liked them, and they were considered quite dorky and childish. ‘Stupefy’ wasn’t exactly ‘Master Of Puppets’ or ‘Raining Blood’ in terms of cool factor, now was it? Their second album Prayer was amazing, but the press poo-pooed it, and the band fell off my radar. About ten years later I turned around one day and noticed the band were massive, beloved, headlining US arenas and their old stuff was considered classic. ‘Down With The Sickness’ was in everybody’s gym playlist. Huh? What happened there!?
Well, whatever happened… I’m glad my dorky little Nu Metal guilty pleasure got their dues. Recently I’ve gotten back into them and picked up albums I’ve missed along the way and have been enjoying their new one on Spotify. Judging by the crowd reaction, so have a lot of other people.
Disturbed absolutely ruled live. The setlist was great, just about every song I’d ever want (well, maybe Sons Of Plunder, Voices, and Rise but now we’re getting greedy) plenty of energy, a great performance and crazy ass pyro.
Draiman sounded incredible live on his long sustained screams and silly monkey noises. The guitar solos from Dan Donagan were awesome, and the rhythm section were absolutely on it. Almost Djenty at times with their surprisingly intricate for stadium music style. Very rhythmic. It was nice to hear old favourites like ‘Liberate’ and ‘The Game’ and newer pleasures like ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ and ‘Inside The Fire.’ Stuff from their comeback album Immortalized sounded particularly hot, and the crowd ate it up.
The pyro was pretty entertaining, very synchronized and tall and with moving flame streams crossing eachother etc. A nice visual for us chumps up in the seats who can’t see the band’s nose hairs anymore. They were also stood in front of a giant collection of what might have been straight jackets but I was too far away to be certain. They had some kind of backdrop anyway. Whatever it was.
With good songs and fun pyro that would’ve been enough to have a pleasant evening, but Disturbed made it really great with their strong confident performance. They really filled up that big stage in a way In Flames just couldn’t. They looked the right size for that space, and had the theatrical gestures and stagecraft to pull it all off.
When they dropped their cover of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ they had violinists join them onstage and Mike gave a really into-it timpani performance. Like, really into it! It was genuinely captivating. I couldn’t look away, not even at the singing or the strings.
The only bit of it I didn’t like, was that mommy-don’t-hit-me part of Down With The Sickness that I’ve always felt spoils the song a bit. I’m surprised they keep it in live, seems you could skip it easy enough without losing much in terms of quality.
Anyway; After that show, I’m very pro-Disturbed. If they come back any time soon I’ll be there. And I reckon I’ll finally now get around to check out Asylum, the only one of theirs I haven’t tried yet (not that they played anything off it or anything, just because I’m in a pro Disturbed mood now).
After what was already a headline performance from a renergized Disturbed I was glad I’d came. The concert which followed absolutely raised the bar for me though, and really made the ticket price and everything else worth it.
Avenged Sevenfold were magnificent. Such good musicians. Synyster Gates is easy to overlook because of his OTT appearance and silly name, but damn that is one talented guitar hero. Matt Shadows might look like a biker version of Luke Danes with his lumberjack shirt and backwards baseball cap, but that man is an almost unparalleled frontman and natural born star. New drummer Brooks Wackerman is good enough to be in Tool, Mastodon or Dream Theater. Nuff said. The songwriting is so odd and off kilter its almost annoying until you realize how good it is, and damn can they perform live!
As well as the band’s superhero performance itself, they put on a great show, with multiple screens showing cool footage and pre-made videos like a Tool concert or something. They also had one screen cube that could move around and came out floating into the crowd almost, and a giant Astronaut puppet like Maiden’s Eddie almost. Now that’s arena headliner stuff. You can’t just make no effort in a place this size. You’ve got to have all those bells and whistles.
Their setlist tried to balance out the career, with super old stuff like ‘Warmess Of The Soul’ and ‘To End The Rapture’ from their demoy debut to five songs off their newest prog metal masterpiece The Stage. There was surprisngly only one song off fan favourite album City Of Evil (not even uber famous almost signature-tune ‘The Beast And The Harlot’ either) and they couldn’t fit in my favourite song of theirs (‘Critical Acclaim’ off the self titled) but they did have my number two and three favourites; ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Hail To The King.’
Nightmare’s massive ‘Its your fucking nightmare’ section was so amazing with the whole arena singing along.
The show also had me noticing things I hadn’t noticed before, such as the Soundgarden influence on ‘Angels’ which I never would have noticed if they hadn’t had Soundgarden over the speakers so soon before.
When the band ended, on Unholy Confessions from Waking The Fallen, they did something I think Machine Head should steal, which is they finished the song and had all the applause and all, and then said ‘we’re going to leave you with one more riff for the road’ and leaned into the big crushing breakdown bit again, so everyone on the ground floor could mosh around a bit longer. Machine Head concerts would be amazing doing that with Davidian.
Strangely or not, I think the biggest sing along of the whole night was for ‘A Little Piece Of Heaven’ … the 8 minute novelty necrophilia comedy song. Well its not really a comedy song, and its catchy as hell and brilliant, but still… I think it got a better reaction than even hits like ‘Bat Country.’ For a Tim Burton style corpse wedding song. I mean when you think about it, that’s what it is.
You know what sounded massive live? Planets! I can see why they called that tune Planets, becuase it sounds so massive. Especially those cinematic apocalyptic horns DUH DUH DUH DUH. ….. DUH DUH DUH DUH!
Overall; I was hesitant about a show in an Arena, and it was a bit odd compared to what I’m used to, but boy, I can see why Disturbed and Avenged get to play venues this size, they really know how to work the crowds, they really know how to bring the extras and they really know how to play!