Avenged Sevenfold

Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows sings from a platform in the center of Pinnacle Bank Arena Thursday.

L. Kent Wolgamott Lincoln Journal Star

M. Shadows was telling a story of how MTV played the video of Avenged Sevenfold’s “Beast and the Harlot” exactly one time, then banned it and the band from the channel that, back in the day, actually played music videos back..

“That doesn’t matter now,” M. Shadows told the 9,400 fans in Pinnacle Bank Arena. “Look around, rock and roll is still alive.”

Indeed it is -- and it’s in good hands with Avenged Sevenfold, which demonstrated how it’s done right for close to two beautifully paced, smartly staged hours Thursday night.

The show began with “The Stage,” the band’s Grammy nominated single and the title cut of its most recent album that contributed a handful of songs to Wednesday’s set.

“The Stage” was nominated for best hard rock song - and that’s probably the best way to describe Avenged Sevenfold, aka A7X. Often tagged as metal, Avenged Sevenfold played all manner of rock Thursday -- some metal, of course, but also hard charging classic rockers, melodic ballads and even an acoustic-drenched cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”

That song and Pink Floyd generally, M. Shadows said, provided his first connection to the heart and spirit of rock and roll -- and it was that same connection he conveyed to the audience.

It came not only through his between song chats but in songs like the slow ballad “So Far Away,” a beautiful tribute to The Rev, the band’s original drummer who died in 2009, that found the arena covered with cellphone lights and “Welcome to the Family,” a song that was particularly fit the vibe that M. Shadows and the band brought to the arena from start to finish.

Speaking of drummers, Brooks Wackerman is a monster on the kit, who threw the drive into songs like “Nightmare.” And the two guitar attack of lead stringbender Synyster Gates and rhythm man Zacky Vengeance gives A7X the punch and versatility to roar and soar, then get quietly introspective -- without losing the audience, which is a very good trick.

For the first two bands of the evening, Welsh metalcore specialists Bullet for My Valentine, which tore through a 35-minute or so set and Breaking Benjamin, who followed them for an hour, Pinnacle Bank Arena felt like Pershing Center writ large -- the hard rock bands playing to about 3,000 more people than the old city auditorium held.

When Avenged Sevenfold hit the stage, however, that feeling changed.

This was a top-flight arena production with a pro stage that smartly utilized video screens and clear, clean, if very loud sound (which dramatically contrasted with the sludgy, mid-range thick Breaking Benjamin mix).

And that was delivered by a band that has been making the rock long enough that its honed its craft and music to a fine edge.

To top things off, A7X pulled out one of the most effective big stage props I’ve seen in a good while -- a giant inflatable astronaut that hovered over the stage during “Exist,” which, thankfully, was truncated from its 15 minute album version in a reversal of the old arena rock practice of ultra-long “concert versions” of songs.

Any band who does a song inspired by Hunter S. Thompson, one of my literary heroes, is just fine with me.

And Avenged Sevenfold does it better than any -- taking “Bat Country” straight outta “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” and flashing imagery that aped that of the Terry Gilliam film based on HST’s book on the screens while hammering away at the song --,Avenged Sevenfold’s first hit and main set closer.

“Buy the ticket, take the ride,” M. Shadows sang, the line ripped from Hunter’s pages. If that ticket’s for the Avenged Sevenfold ride, I’ll buy it again anytime.

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