Not your typical Sunday night on Franklin Blvd. to see thousands up people lined up, but the Matthew Knight Arena brought thousands of fans anxiously awaiting the venue’s first concert performance. Hosting four bands, doors opened early at 5:30 and promptly began an hour later.
New Medicine kicked off the event killing the lights and filling the arena with an apocalyptic recording, causing fans to scream and maybe panic. In fact, all four bands opened their acts with this style of frightfully fun intro, one of many resemblances they all shared. New Medicine immediately amped up the crowd with their pop/punk hits like “Race You to the Bottom” and “Laid.” Their song “Rich Kids” was extremely popular with the crowd, and slightly ironic with the giant University “O” looming above as they sang about parents paying for college degrees. They slowed down their set just long enough for “Little Sister,” a ballad about the loss of lead singer Jake Scherer’s, you guessed it, little sister. New Medicine, formed in 2009, had a surprisingly polished set, and their catchy lyrics and energetic beats were a perfect fit for the younger audience and a great way to start the evening.
Matt Brady from New Medicine
Hollywood Undead ran onstage next, after a siren-blaring, heartbeat pounding, creepy children singing recorded intro. Their six MC’s and drummer kept the energy level and fright factor high, not removing their monstrous Halloween masks until after their second song, playing on a Ying Yang Twins lyric singing "wait til you see my face". Hollywood Undead had a minimal number of instruments onstage, but after Da Kurlzz jumped on a second drum kit and the other MCs traded off a keyboard and guitar, a more dynamic sound appeared, showcased during their song “Paradise Lost.” They did not, however, have a minimal number of band members on stage, causing a few to mosy off at times, either because it was too crowded or they were too cool. At the end of their set, half the crowd joined them in singing “Everywhere I Go” which seemed to impress and excite the band that so many knew of their song. Hollywood Undead resembles the vocal dynamic of Linkin Park with explicit party lyrics like Eminem’s, making them more suitable for a slightly older audience than New Medicine’s.
Stone Sour was next and brought a more mature rock sound to the mix. Their newest album, “Audio Secrecy,” has a much heavier metal vibe to it than their previous albums, but their set included a variety of songs from all three, giving their audiences a taste of each of the music genre’s they can give. Lead singer Corey Taylor dominated the stage, and after seeing Hollywood Undead’s masks I realized how nice it was to see Taylor’s shining Stone Sour face rather than his Slipknot garb. It seems Stone Sour is really finding their groove again, and their upcoming single “Say You’ll Haunt Me” is going to be a hit. The most musically relevant moment of the night was when Taylor performed a solo version of “Bother,” and I was thrilled to see the rest of band rejoin him for “Through the Glass.”
Finally it was time for the big Finale. The Nightmare After Christmas 2011 tour ended in Eugene, and the entire production was as flawless as a live show could be. The curtains dropped for this one, and, as expected, Avenged Sevenfold started their reign of terror with no lights and the piano intro to their latest album’s title track “Nightmare.” As soon as the curtains lifted, a man dressed in street clothes with a noose around his neck jumped from the stage rafters and writhed through the air as A7X entered the arena. The young man hung there, limp, as all six minutes and fourteen seconds of “Nightmare” continued, finally being carried offstage by extras. This in no way fazed anyone in the audience except for maybe me, and the show went on. (It was clear the actor had a harness around his waist and no immediate fear of heights or terrible accidents.) This stunt was my f***ing nightmare, which was exactly the point of the entire album.
Then came the fire! And explosions, smoke, and fog. The stage was elaborately decorated in oversized cemetery gates and tombstones, and multiple mini-stages were the providers of these pyrotechnics. You could feel the heat as A7X continued playing through “Nightmare’s” tracks and the audience sang every single word along with them. I was pretty much the only audience member who had not purchased a “your f***ing nightmare” tour shirt, as well as being the only audience member annoyed that they were playing almost all “Nightmare” songs. By the time A7X played their sixth “Nightmare” song, I was no longer awed by all the shooting flames, but aggravatingly depressed that I may never again hear “Eternal Rest” or “Chapter Four” live again, or even “Bat Country” for that matter! This was sinking in when The Rev’s tribute began. Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan was the band’s drummer since the incarnation of A7X in 1999 and in 2009 died from an inconclusive heart failure/possible drug overdose. He was indescribable live, and though their touring drummer Arin Ilejay certainly got the job done, The Rev’s shoes are hard to fill.
And then they did play “Bat Country!” Not my favorite song from the “City of Evil” album but by far the most popular. It gave me hope…that “Unholy Confessions,” by far my favorite and one of the most difficult A7X songs, was soon to follow. And it was! I jumped up like all the other seventeen year olds and sang with glee! After attempting to ignite the crowd into a violent mosh pit (which didn’t happen) A7X exited the stage only to return for their first encore with “Fiction” from, what else?, “Nightmare.” “Fiction” featured a piano, with no player, and spotlights on it, which didn’t have any significance that I could imagine. Then again, I’m no longer a die-hard A7Xer. Their second encore was to play “A Little Piece of Heaven” which I can’t believe is even a song that they take seriously (it sounds like a ditty from a Tim Burton movie), let alone end their entire tour with. But again, everyone sang along and did *NSYNC style “Bye Bye” hand motions with lead singer M. Shadows. Not exactly the A7X I once knew, but these new fans were clearly providing something that the old fans didn’t. And that something would be funding for show ending fireworks.