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Avenged Sevenfold, Five Finger Death Punch and Asking Alexandria live @ Festival Hall, Melbourne

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It’s Sidewave week again and there’s a wide range of choices on offer around town  in the lead up Soundwave.  One of the biggest gigs of the week is scheduled for  Melbourne’s aging but iconic Festival Hall and a fair size crowd has turned out to catch Avenged Sevenfold as they warm up their fans ahead of the festival  appearance.  As with many Sidewave events, the opening and support acts are often bands with considerable success in their own right and that’s certainly true here as Asking Alexandria and Five Finger Death Punch make up a fantastic triple bill.

First up is England’s Asking Alexandria.  From the opening moments of ‘Don’t Pray for Me’ vocalist Danny Worsnop strides the stage, dragging the audience into action.  And he needs to work at it, with the crowd feeling sluggish.  Perhaps it’s the early start time, perhaps it’s the somewhat murky initial sound mix, perhaps it’s the fact that venue is still of half full, but the fans seem unable to sustain any momentum.  They respond when requested, but just can’t keep it going for any length of time.  The band works hard delivering a tight 30 minute set that is over before it even seems to begin.

Next up is Las Vegas exports Five Finger Death Punch.   With a sound and song style that lends itself so well to crowd involvement it’s no surprise that the audience takes it up a few notches when  the band hits the stage.  With 5 albums to choose from,  including 2 in 2013, the 45 minute set is a furious greatest hits  parade of metal/rock anthems. Tracks like ‘Under and Over It’, ‘Lift me Up’, ‘Coming Down’ and the crowd chanting ‘Burn MF’ keep the energy up and running through the set, and the crowd responds at every opportunity.  A surprising standout is the impact of bassist Chris Kael, laying down the  foundation better than Isaac Asimov (google it), delivering great backing vocals, and delivering heaps of stage presence with a look that’s something like a cross between Ned Kelly and an NFL lineman.  Ivan Moody’s vocals are superb throughout, and Jason Hook shows the touch and feel that place him head and shoulders above the other guitarists to take the stage on the night.  It all goes to show why this is a band that continues to rise.

The  lull as the stage is cleared and set for Avenged Sevenfold is much needed, with plenty of punters grabbing the opportunity to refuel for  part 3 of the evening’s sonic assault.  The crowd is also growing, in both numbers and expectation.  It was a slightly mixed year for A7X in 2013, there was huge commercial success with Hail to the King but also criticism from contemporaries questioning their originality.  Ninety minutes of live A7X seems like a perfect way to see how the band is travelling.  The answer is quickly evident – they have clearly come to play.  Just as obvious, this is the band the crowd have come to see.   Any lingering signs of lethargy in the audience are washed away as the band kicks off with ‘Shepherd of Fire’.  But despite the crowd’s enthusiasm, there’s a slight sense from the stage that the band is still working their way into it.  At one point frontman M. Shadows tells the crowd he’s still jetlagged (which possibly explains the need for  sunglasses indoors at 10pm at night), and it doesn’t feel like the band are really on full throttle until the middle of set, when they deliver a hugely impressive rendition of ‘Nightmare’.  Shadows is dynamic throughout, the rest of the band a little less so, but the crowd are finding what they came looking for and the vibe is tremendous.  Knowing that they will be playing to many of the same people again in two days’ time the band mixes the setlist up, throwing in numbers like ‘Eternal Rest’ and ‘Burn It Down’ that have not been seen live for years.  In the end, it all just works.  The huge stage set, massive lights, great song choices and a solid if slightly subdued performance leaves the fans happy, and looking forward to doing it all again in a few more days.

Photos by Jay Hynes

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