January 22, 2018 Avenged Sevenfold Rip Up Reading, PA 1-16-18 w/ Breaking Benjamin & Bullet For My Valentine
A new year marks a time of new beginnings, or, in this particular instance, an extension on last year’s Rock-n-Roll mayhem. Continuing to bring their brand of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal to adoring crowds across North America, Avenged Sevenfold has grabbed 2018 by the balls with the next-round of their The Stage World Tour, which began with several aperitifs last spring. As a gentle snow blanketed the bustling city of Reading, Pennsylvania, Avenged Sevenfold, Breaking Benjamin, and Bullet For My Valentine arrived in town to rock the sold-out Santander Arena on a quiet, but snowy Tuesday, January 16th.
The Stage World Tour had literally just began enticing crowds across the U.S. and Canada on January 12th in Nashville, Tennessee, which, coincidentally, was seeing a rare bout of snow that threatened the evening’s festivities. The tour would make its third stop in Reading for a sold-out, roughly 7,200 attendee crowd, before moving upward and onward through nearly twenty more stops before reaching its final date, February 17th, in Vancouver, Canada. Come June, the boys in Avenged Sevenfold head overseas for a summer of hard rocking in Europe, so U.S. fans have to take advantage while they still can!
The first band of the evening, Bullet For My Valentine, are no strangers to arena crowds. With their impressive career spanning twenty years now, these Welsh lads have five albums to their credit, ranging from 2005’s The Poison to 2015’s Venom, along with countless trips around the globe and a collection of rabid metalheads to call their own.
Taking the stage in Reading, Bullet For My Valentine – Vocalist/Guitarist Matt Tuck, Lead Guitarist Michael Paget, Bassist Jamie Mathias, and Drummer Jason Bowld – wasted not a moment of time by diving head-first into the likes of the explosive “Your Betrayal,” “No Way Out,” and “The Last Fight.” Vocalist Tuck is not one to waste his set-time chatting endlessly, so he kept the music rolling full-force with “4 Words (To Choke Upon)” and “Worthless.”
Before the band could attack “Tears Don’t Fall,” however, Tuck took a moment to shout-out to their pals in Avenged Sevenfold, as well as Breaking Benjamin, to thank his tourmates. Headbanger “Waking the Demon” followed, as well as a second thank you to BFMV’s tourmates and the crowd, launching the band into their final offering, the blistering “Don’t Need You.” An intense band who pump their hearts into their performance, Bullet For My Valentine are not to be missed!
Hailing from roughly two hours to the north, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Breaking Benjamin were the hometown heroes of a sort at Santander Arena. Nearly twenty years into their careers, Breaking Benjamin have been plagued by line-up changes and illness, and yet they have soldiered onward with an impressive career of hard-rocking tracks to their credit. Their upcoming 2018 album, Ember, will mark the band’s sixth release, with others ranging from their explosive 2002 debut, Saturate, to 2015’s Dark Before Dawn.
While Breaking Benjamin are perhaps not as blistering as their predecessors, that hardly slowed the boys down from taking the stage and making it very much their own. With emphatic screams of delight from the crowd – who clearly adore this band – Breaking Benjamin – Vocalist/Guitarist Ben Burnley, Guitarists Jasen Rauch and Keith Wallen, Bassist Aaron Bruch, and Drummer Shaun Foist – stomped onto the stage with “So Cold.” Bathed in ominous shadows and red highlights, the band stomped into a rocking set that included the likes of “Angels Fall,” catchy “Sooner or Later,” and delicious grinder “Blow Me Away.” Burnley soared on “Never Again,” leading the boys into “Failure” and “Breath.”
Perhaps one of the highlights of the band’s set was a medley dedicated to the nerds in the audience, a geektastic blend of Star Wars’ Darth Vader theme, “The Imperial March,” Tool’s “Schism,” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and Pantera’s “Walk” (which, coincidentally, is a track that Avenged Sevenfold have covered in the past, as well). With the crowd eating out of their palms, the boys next tackled “Until the End” and “I Will Not Bow.”
As the band began the lengthy intro to “The Diary of Jane,” Burnley took to the catwalk and had the arena raise the lights as he paid homage to the amazing fans and bands that were in attendance for the evening. Playing the comedian, he joked that he signed on to the tour so that he could watch Avenged Sevenfold for free every night. With the fans cheering for Avenged Sevenfold, as well as Breaking Benjamin and Bullet For My Valentine, Burnley and his group properly launched into their finale, the epic “The Diary of Jane.” While it is decidedly bizarre that the band did not perform either their current single, the crunchy “Red Cold River,” or their infectious hit “Polyamorous,” their set left no doubt that this is a band that continue to churn out not only amazing records but killer live performances.
If you can remember when the main event still wore guyliner, you are not alone. However, Avenged Sevenfold – Vocalist M. Shadows, Guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, Bassist Johnny Christ, and Drummer Brooks Wackerman (remember Bad4Good?) – have come a long way since those days on the OC Metalcore scene and their stints on, gasp, MTV’s TRL. Two hundred years later and these boys are now men with families of their own, though still very much shredding stages and spreading the good word of Metal mayhem wherever they go. With seven full-length studio offerings to their name – ranging from 2001’s Sounding the Seventh Trumpet to 2016’s The Stage – and ever-evolving sound, Avenged Sevenfold (affectionately known as A7X) are one of the premiere acts in any subgenre of Rock-n-Roll, are beloved the world over, and are officially a Grammy-nominated act.
As the band took the Santander Arena stage to a sold-out crowd, it was abundantly obvious that Pennsylvania loves their A7X! With Gates’ meandering and phenomenal guitar-work leading the band into tour namesake, “The Stage,” the band worked their catwalk, moving into fan favorites “Afterlife” – which contained a gorgeous guitar introduction by the superbly talented Gates – and “Hail to the King,” which Shadows dedicated to one fan who was proudly waving a comedic poster.
While the band’s last stop in the area – in Hershey in May – saw a setlist that was highly slanted toward tracks off the band’s latest release, The Stage, this time around, A7X did an even better job of peppering their set with old and new favorites alike, such as “Paradigm” and “Beast and the Harlot.” Not to mention, while some bands merely stand in-place and expect their audiences to be completely awed by their musicianship alone, the boys in A7X work their catwalk like Naomi Campbell circa 1990.
With Gates’ talents taking center-stage yet again, the band sashayed into the languid rocker “Buried Alive” before embracing the emotional tribute to fallen comrade and beloved drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, “So Far Away.” With images of the Rev adorning the stage’s multitude of large, three-dimensional screens, this was a portion of the show carried over from the spring and rightfully so . . . FoREVer.
Fiercely prowling both stage and catwalk, working their standing-room-only audience back into a frenzy, Shadows – clad in a black “Fuck It” tee and red flannel that got into an unfortunate battle with a bottle of bleach – led the stomp through “Nightmare” and “God Damn.” Next they unearthed “Chapter Four” from the vaults, before tackling newer gems such as “Exist,” “Higher,” and a phenomenal cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”
To push the adrenaline back toward eleven, A7X took the crowd into another old-school favorite, “Bat Country,” before taking a quick break to build anticipation for their encore. With the band returning to the stage, the brutal banger “Critical Acclaim” led into the epic Horror Comedy of “A Little Piece of Heaven,” never a disappointment. Before moving into the band’s final song of the evening, Shadows took a moment to acknowledge a banner on the arena’s ceiling – in celebration of two sold-out Eric Church gigs – and implored the crowd to make sure that Avenged Sevenfold too would have a sold-out banner hanging from those very same rafters very soon.
Of course, die-hard fans always want a taste of the good ‘ole days of a band’s beginnings, and what better way to end a killer set than with the band’s first single/video ever, “Unholy Confessions”? With horns raised high, Shadows and co. led the audience in an old-school sing-along that was the perfect, energetic high to end this nearly two-hour set upon. Blending the very best of all of their material from throughout the past nearly twenty years, Avenged Sevenfold are placing an indelibly delicious mark upon every stage that they grace on this, The Stage World Tour. It seems somewhat redundant to have to summarize that you should get out from behind a computer monitor and go check out The Stage World Tour, but that is, indeed, a fact!