Jan 23, 2011

A7X, Stone Sour - First Mariner Arena

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

AVENGED SEVENFOLD / STONE SOUR / NEW MEDICINE / HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD

January 23, 2011

Baltimore, MD

When Avenged Sevenfold started playing arenas my first thought was,

"Is that band REALLY big enough to fill an arena?!?"

I found out that answer on January 23, 2011 when the band brought their current tour to my neck of the woods...it's a very simple YES!

To put it in comparison, Ozzy Osbourne played the same venue, First Mariner Arena in Baltimore back in November of 2010 & Ozzy didn't have as many people in attendance as the Avenged Sevenfold tour did! That says something for the current state of rock n roll because if you put together a decent concert bill that features good bands & the ticket prices are not an insane amount of money then the fans WILL come out, even on a Sunday night!

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It's interesting to note that the temperature outside was freezing...literally! The temperature was in the 20's & it was actually comical to see girls in short skirts freezing their asses off as they waited to get into the venue & then there was closing laughs as those same girls darted into the darkness to find their cars & by 11 PM the temperature was actually a little colder than it was when the doors had opened.

New Medicine were the show openers & it's interesting how so many people were not even aware these guys were on the bill!

This was my first taste of New Medicine outside their radio single "Laid" & I actually enjoyed the bands set. I'd describe New Medicine like this: The Toadies meet Jimmy Eat World.

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New Medicine's stage set up was ultra minimal & the band relied simply on their musicianship & energy. I'll say that the bands drummer was their secret weapon because he's a hard hitter, he held every song together & my only complaint was that the drop-D riffs were a little limiting to some degree...I love the harmony & the voicings they utilize between the vocals & the guitar licks, that's what makes this band distinct in my opinion, but the non-stop Drop tuning felt a bit restricting to the bands sound.

New Medicine's set ended & within 5 minutes of them exiting the stage the entire band walked through the entire arena with boxes of CD's which they sold for $15 a piece & there was a long assed line of fans waiting to meet the band, get pics & get autographs....I'd say New Medicine won over some fans at this show for sure!

Who was direct support for Avenged Sevenfold? This was actually the part of the show that everyone was unsure of because when it came down to Hollywood Undead VS. Stone Sour the crowd was split down the middle.

I'll toss my two cents in and say that I'm not particularly a Hollywood Undead fan because that's the band who tossed eggs at Iron Maiden @ Ozzfest a few years back and Hollywood Undead became a Hot Topic band who's t-shirts are common fodder for mall rats; with that said though, Avenged Sevenfold fall into that same rut, so it was obvious why many people there thought Hollywood Undead would be direct support for the show.

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The answer to that question was clear as day though when Hollywood Undead's drum kit was setup after New Medicine's set & quite a few people in the crowd were surprised, as was I!

If you doubt how big Hollywood Undead are, go to one of their shows & look at the masses that sing every single word to every single song they play! What I found interesting was that the 6 MC's in the band take the stage wearing masks....this is a stunt that 2 guys in Stone Sour are well known for so my curious thought was, How funny is it that Corey & Jim from Slipknot/Stone Sour are known for wearing masks onstage, yet they are not sporting the masks for this tour & the band playing before them are donning masks?!

Maybe it's just me, but I found it mildly funny that Corey Taylor was playing a show without a mask & the band playing directly before him were all sported masks! On that same notion, I like Hollywood Undead better when they wear the masks.....when they take the masks off you end up watching the most average looking dorks ever on that stage...one guy looks like a gay sailor, one guy is a skinny Samoan, one guy looks like the guy from that TV show "Yes, Dear" & the only star that shines on that stage is their amazing drummer who's not even credited as a "member" of the band!

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Hollywood Undead DID bring a big rock show though...actually that is a redundant statement because they brought a hip hop show with rock elements & to their credit, the crowd LOVED it! Every single song was screamed aloud by the bulk of the crowd & when they played "Hear Me Now" you could literally see the crowd surge towards the stage & pack in the pit area super tight....even if you don't care for Hollywood Undead you can't deny that they have a large following & they DO deliver a solid performance onstage.

Stone Sour were next up & this was my first time seeing Stone Sour on a big stage so I was mildly curious to see how the band would translate on a large arena stage as opposed to a smaller club stage.

Corey Taylor took the stage sporting a scruffy beard, short cropped hair & a black pull over shirt that reminded me of something my Dad would have worn. My first thought when I saw Corey Taylor was, Oh My God, he looks like Michael Bolton with short hair! I say that in jest so don't get pissed off, I'm entitled to my opinions & random thoughts!

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Stone Sour played a solid hour long set that covered most of the bases & they skipped the popular material off their debut release & focused on trying to play a bit o' the newer material.

Jim Root was the guy who you might not have recognized if you didn't see him onstage this night...Jim has a weird haircut that's cropped very short on the sides & long in the front & back; yes, it's technically a mullet...I'd say he has a mohawk but it wasn't spiked up & it was just too messy to be called a mohawk...I always considered Jim Root to be a metal player & he has a Warped Tour styled punk/pop hairdo these days, but his facial hair was the interesting part of his look....Jim looks alot like Wes Borland these days & it was almost like his facial hair & odd haircut were his "mask" since he's not wearing his trademark Slipknot mask for this tour.

Set wise, Stone Sour were good with things, in the middle of it all Corey did a "slow" set where he played 1 song by himself, "Bother" & then continued to play guitar with "Looking Through The Glass"..."Bother" was the singer/song writer part of the set & it was bathroom break time for the fans who wanted aggression!

Corey has an amazing singing voice & when you see Slipknot it's easy to not even notice how strong Corey's "Singing" voice is...what I mean by that is, Corey can definitely scream his balls off, BUT, he can also sing as well & Corey's voice is clear, loud, sharp & strong! When it was rumored that Corey was to be the next singer for Velvet Revolver most people probably laughed at that notion, BUT, when you see Corey really sing as opposed to screaming it does make sense that Corey could be a possibility as the next singer for Velvet Revolver.

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Before Stone Sour ended their set Corey commented that the band would definitely be back at some point this year to rock Baltimore again & my personal feelings on the bands set was that that they reminded me alot of the Seattle grunge scene when they performed...it wasn't just Jim Root's flannel shirt that brought that idea to mind, it was the fact that the band relied completely on their ability as players...there were NO pyro, NO frills, NO rockstar attire, the band had a large backdrop & lights, but overall the core of the bands show was simply Corey's voice & the band backing him & that's what I always got out of the Seattle grunge stuff....there were no pretty boys onstage, it was music & emotions.

When you see a multi band bill like this it's alot like going out to dinner: There's a few appetizers & it's easy to get filled up before the main course with all the stuff being tossed at you before hand; the secret is to just sample it all but hold out for the main course...sadly though, no one ever does that & by the time the main course is served you wind up usually full or not as hungry as you were in the beginning; the same can be said for these shows with 4 or more bands....by the time the headliner comes on it's easy to wind up tired or "full" because the openers were good, the crowd was singing along to both the radio hits & the deep cuts, the mosh pit was active & at a 5+ hour show it's easy to peter out midway though the show! I enjoy a good opening band, but I honestly do not like billings where you have to experience several bands before you get to the headliner. Logistically, the headliner of a multi band billing might get the most stage space & the best sound, BUT, they don't get the best crowd because if you ever see multi band billings with local bands you realize that the middle slots are the best because the middle slots usually have the most crowd energy, the largest crowd attendance & by the end of the night you see people tired from seeing & hearing too much music, you have those who leave early to avoid the crowd leaving, not to mention the later the show the drunker the crowd in many cases...I don't know, I definitely enjoy seeing an opening act, but tacking on too many bands can make it a long, drawn out experience & it's truly IS why so many people show up late & miss the openers.

Avenged Sevenfold placed a large black curtain infront of their stage so they could hide the stage set up till the show started & the show spoiler for their intro is as follows:

The band opens with "Nightmare" & the backdrop is set up like a graveyard, there's 3 large gates with A,7,X placed accordingly & there's rows of skulls, tons o' pyro, tons o' smoke, the drums were on a large riser & as soon as the band took the stage for song #1 a fake hanging took place where a very realistic looking dummy complete with tattoo's was executed directly above M. Shadows.

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Avenged Sevenfold take alot of Sh*t from rock press; they definitely borrow many facets of their large arena rock experience from the old school metal world & in all honesty I felt like I was watching The Scorpions at various points because "Rock You Like A Hurricane" is the ultimate arena rock song & Avenged Sevenfold definitely understand that as well because they capture that same energy, that same essence & what Avenged Sevenfold offer their fans is the next generation of big arena rock complete with amazing guitar solos, big lights, explosions, pyro, smoke, changing stage props & the set was complete with fan favorite after fan favorite!

The band members control the stage, they offer their fans a fun time, they are full of energy, Syn Gates plays virtuoso guitar riffs while Matt roams the stage like Dee Snider without all the hair & I initially thought that maybe the band was rushing too fast after the death of Jimmy "Rev" Sullivan, but they definitely delivered a great rock show, the bands new drummer was superb & it's quite sad that it took a death in the band for them to clean things up a bit, but indeed, Avenged Sevenfold's set was really good, they mixed it up a bit, the only song NOT played this night that was surprising was "Beast & the Harlot" but they added "Bat Country" back to the setlist & in the middle of the bands set they dedicated the show to Rev & a large backdrop was lowered that showed a portrait of Jimmy, Johnny & Syn hugging each other...it was interesting in my mind that I cynically thought,

"Ok, now the band can stop dedicating their show to Dimebag & dedicate it to The Rev!"

I say that as a cynical joke simply because every other band in the metal world were dedicating their sets to Dimebag & while I am a HUGE Pantera fan & definitely felt bad over Dime's death, it DOES get annoying to hear every other metal band dedicate things to Dime....at this point the ONLY dude's who can pass with Dime dedications are the 3 remaining Pantera members & Zakk Wylde and that's simply because Dime was more or less family to those guys (I know, he IS family to Vin) whereas after a few years had passed it was time to STOP the Dime memorials at every metal show...as much as I hate to say it, it became less of a remembrance & more of a "trendy" thing to do.

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The entire show was over shortly before 11 PM & what definitely made me smile as I looked at the crowd was, there were lots o' families there. You could clearly see Dads taking their young kids to this show & this show was probably the first "Big Arena Rock" show for many kiddies in attendance & they definitely left the show with a good memory!

I'll also give the bands props for NOT overcharging their fans for merch....all t-shirts were $35 & ironically that WAS more $$ than what the cheap seats cost for this show, BUT, compared to some bands that charge way more, the merch was reasonable considering it was an arena show.