10:30PM: M. Shadows interrogates the crowd. “Why are you still here? There is drinking to do. There is sex to be had.” He isn’t lying. This is the revered Download Festival, after all.
Avenged Sevenfold turned a few heads when they were announced as the Friday headliners, a position reserved for all-time greats. Tonight needs to provoke a warm welcome into that Hall of Fame. They seemed to take the ‘warm’ bit far more literally, as flamethrowers line the stage, permanently ignited. It’s commonplace for any acts whose place atop the bill is questionable – a great performance and a stage with a budget of kings, leaving the audience wondering why they had doubts to start with. The only thing left now is that great performance. Can A7X deliver?.
As it turns out, yes. Hell yes.
Unlike Rammstein style theatrics, A7X perform with such power, that the entire inferno remains a backdrop. Yet there is still and unusual intimacy, and a connection with the crowd, almost engaging 80,000 in conversation. As hellish as everything appears, everybody is having a great time, and the ear-to-ear grins from all five of the metallers onstage through the furious battle cries of ‘This Means War’, and the not very romantic (however angelic the title) ode to sex and murder ‘A Little Piece of Heaven’, make no secret of it.
Shadows delivers with a bizarre collision of relaxed suaveness, not unleashing nearly as many ‘fucks’ in his banter as the rest of Download’s Friday line-up (though he did give a nod to necrophilia – “you know you’re in a crazy country when that gets the biggest cheer”) reserving it all for the music, such as ‘Nightmare’, discussing not just any nightmare, but ‘your fucking nightmare’. The very Iron Maiden-style, giant skeleton king prop, hypnotically turning its head back and forth, eyes glowing red, focusing on the ecstatic crowd, is clearly custom made for such fucking nightmares.
The band get a much-deserved breather during Synyster Gates’ long (arguably too long) guitar solo, closing on national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ – at least the 8174th mention today from a foreign act, about how awesome the UK is. While their native ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is learned before saying one’s own name in the USA, A7X learn in the least convenient of places that nobody knows the UK national anthem beyond “God save our gracious queen” and “*mumble mumble mumble*-orious!”. Sex Pistols’ version would have been more appropriate.
However, that strangely playful muddle is in the spirit of a convincingly spontaneous show, something that considering the inevitably heavily planned stage show, the band seemed loose enough that they weren’t just screaming off a script. The encores, accompanied by Shadows’ onstage banter make even the flame soaked finale ‘Unholy Confessions’ seem off the cuff.
In answer to Shadows’ “why are you still here?”,for the last 90 minutes, Avenged Sevenfold have gripped this audience tight. No one is going home until the plug is pulled, and rightly so. As everyone notices their status so spectacularly, Avenged Sevenfold are stuck with putting on amazing shows in front of tens of thousands of fans from now on.
M. Shadows, now you know.