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Who: Avenged Sevenfold
Where: Newcastle O2 Academy, U.K.
When: 11.03.10

It's a sell out in the Toon tonight and there's a lot of hype for this evening, in particular for Avenged Sevenfold. As the lights go out and their intro hits, the curtain that's been disguising the stage since the exit of Stone Sour suddenly drops. We've got a fully fledged graveyard (complete with headstones and flame throwers), and the whole place is filled with smoke. Synester Gates slowly walks on stage performing the intro to Nightmare, and the whole place erupts

It's pretty easy to see why there is so much hype behind A7X at the minute – the new album, 'Nightmare' has clearly been serving them well over the course of the summer. It's not entirely my bag if I'm honest, but this is a band thats built for the live environment (and speaking of live environments, I was shocked at the difference between stage setups for the co-headliners this evening. Stone Sour took to a bare minimum stage, a complete contrast to A7Xs setup, who must have had a bigger production budget).

In light of the recent tragedy surrounding the band, Mike Portnoy is sat at the drum stool this evening. A bit of a legened in my eye from his days with Dream Theatre, he helps the band power through a set which contains nods to the departed Rev in several different places. Tehnically, you will not find a better drummer, and Portnoy brings genius to the unfortunately appropriate titles of "So Far Away" and "Welcome to the Family". In fact Portnoy seems to have helped A7X to become a very focused unit at the minute. They were always tight, but there seems to be something about them this evening that says "we know what we want, and we will take it".

The crowd are into it. REALLY into it. M Shadows commands the stage, and I swear you can see the burning intensity and drive through his sunglasses. We get hit after hit as the band simply deliver. 'God hates us', 'Beast and the Harlot' and the stunning 'Afterlife' all lead to one final salute when a lucky fan gets to pick 'Almost Easy' over 'Bat Country'.

I wonder to myself if it's the loss of the Rev thats brought A7X to this new level. Have they seen what can be taken away so easily and are making the most of things? Is their attitude a tribute to their fallen friend? Only they will know, but on this showing they seem certain to cement themselves as legends rather than wannabe upstarts.

4 out of 5 stars.

Setlist:

* Nightmare
* Critical Acclaim
* Welcome to the Family
* Beast and the Harlot
* Buried Alive
* So Far Away
* Afterlife
* God Hates Us
* Unholy Confessions
* Almost Easy



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