Crowd eats it up as Synyster Gates bends a note with one hand while flipping the bird with the other


If metal’s “golden age” of macabre on-stage personas, outlaw getup and pyrotechnic extravaganza has passed, Avenged Sevenfold resuscitated its charm on April 26 at Welcome to Rockville.

Preparing for last performance of the day, those who hadn’t succumbed to a beer- and funnel cake-induced coma on the littered grounds made their way over to witness the metal mainstays. Well before the band’s set time, the audience had accumulated past the stage-light tower, nearly 150 yards from the stage barricade.

Ears perked up and quiet anticipation turned to cheering as the first burly, Sabbath-inspired riff of “Shepherd of Fire” pummeled out over the audience. Sevenfold took the stage and delivered an unrelenting sonic assault for the duration of its near 90-minute performance.

The audience was going to get their money’s worth, like it or not.

“We’re on a strict curfew, and we don’t want this to get canceled for next year,” vocalist M. Shadows said in a very brief lull between guitar solos and fireballs. “So, let’s just play another song before I chit-chat our way to the curfew.”

The statue of a skull king sitting on a throne of skulls holding a skull scepter watching over the proceedings was a bit much. But that’s the point. In case you were standing at a far distance from the stage, the camera crew would make a dramatic cut to it every few minutes.

Their live performance sounds tighter than ever. Synyster Gates effortlessly rips solos out his custom Schecter guitar with a disinterested, bored expression that only adds to his charm.

Sometimes, guitar solos can feel like an indulgence of the guitarist, while the audience and the rest of the band wait for the next verse. That feeling doesn’t come into Synyster’s playing; the solos feel like an organic part of the song. And the guy has got style, bending a note with one hand and flipping the bird with the other. The crowd ate it up.

M. Shadows showed impressive vocal endurance, alternating between harsh, throat-shredding screams and soaring cleans on dynamic songs like “Hail to the King” and “Almost Easy."

The pace of the show only slowed for “Fiction," a ballad the band had never played in Jacksonville before this show. They dedicated the song to their late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who passed in 2009. It was an emotional moment for the band, and many lighters and cell phones illuminated the surface of the crowd.

Older selections like “Bat Country” and “Unholy Confessions” – both are quintessential songs for budding metal guitarists – really got the crowd fired up. It didn’t take much more than for Gates to play the first few familiar notes for the nostalgic to start jumping around like a bunch of giddy teens.

Sevenfold closed the set with an extra breakdown tacked onto the end of “Unholy Confessions," accompanied by ample pyrotechnics and fireworks on the backside of the stage before saying goodbye and promising to return on a headliner so they could play again, curfew free, for their Jacksonville family.

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