Avenged Sevenfold are having quite a celebration this June. Releasing their first new album in seven years and selling out Madison Square Garden has kicked off a brand new era in the band’s history. On June 2, the Huntington Beach metalheads unleashed Life Is But A Dream… via Warner Records. They followed that up a week later with their first proper Los Angeles headline show since 2009. And last Friday, June 23, the band hit NYC’s Madison Square Garden for their first gig in the city since 2007.
Back in March, Avenged Sevenfold launched an updated website with a countdown timer, fueling speculation of new music. Online scavenger hunts, AI-driven puzzles, and voice modifiers all led to the release of Life Is But A Dream… lead single “Nobody“. The song presents a swirling array of shrieking guitar chords, dense arpeggios, and vocalist M. Shadows’ absurdist lyrics. As each layer is added, the mysterious apprehension continues to build before the song transitions into meditative, dueling guitar leads backed by a creepy, cinematic bass line. The song itself feels like the soundtrack to an ill-fated hero’s battle against evil. On “Nobody,” Avenged Sevenfold trade more traditional songwriting for moments of discomfort shrouded in a new graphic tension.
Shortly after the initial rollout, M. Shadows and company revealed the full Life Is But A Dream… North American tour spanning from mid-July through October. The preview shows in LA and NYC this June provided fans with an early chance to see the band return to the stage after a 5-year absence, as well as debut new songs. At The Garden, the band was already in mid-tour form. Cruising through a career-spanning setlist and commanding the sold-out crowd from start to finish, they felt unstoppable.
M. Shadows is no stranger to teasing fans, both online and in person, and he was not going to skip the opportunity to do so at these shows. Right before the band took the stage, the house lights went out, and “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys played in full over the PA. The MSG crowd adequately clapped back, lighting the room with their cell phone lights and singing every word of the song in a vibrant chorus. The band followed this up by playing “Nightcall” by Kavinsky as they walked on stage to a thunderous reception.
The setlist at Madison Square Garden repeated the LA show, leaning heavily into Life Is But A Dream… with eight of the 11 tracks. The show kicked off with the album’s opening track, “Game Over”. The song starts with a delicate acoustic guitar intro before quickly devolving into driving guitar riffs and M. Shadows’ relentless vocal delivery. A wailing guitar solo takes over the track, creating a frenetic energy that the crowd was ready for. “Mattel” came next, with a groovier feel to the guitars and a mosh pit expanding breakdown laced with cinematic organs. Larger-than-life flames projected around the band made the concert feel like a 3D horror movie experience.
Changing gears and going back to their roots, they then treated the room to fan favorites “Afterlife” and “Hail To The King”. The setlist continued to mix songs from across the band’s discography, with the new tracks fitting in seamlessly. The sold-out Garden brought peak energy throughout the night, singing along to new songs that are only a couple of weeks old.
Avenged Sevenfold is sporting an interesting stage design for this new tour. A very large, bare stage juts out into the crowd, creating more front rail space for fans without the isolating effects of a long catwalk. The band members constantly move about the stage. Engaging with fans on the floor and in seats, they even find time to dance and mosh with each other. Then there were the dynamic visuals projected onto three massive semi-transparent panels backing the stage. Showing themes from the new album as well as classic imagery from the band’s history, it combined the two seamlessly.
At times, however, it felt that some of the band were smothered by the large empty space. Drummer Brooks Wackerman, for example, was mostly out of sight at the back of the flat stage. It created somewhat of a diorama effect. Feeling like the band was miniature figurines on display for a large viewing audience, which could have been offset with layered tiers or some texture on the stage. Avenged Sevenfold are focused on the cinematic experience on this tour. Translating the themes of the music into large-scale graphic imagery and removing the focus from the musicians themselves. This effect was certainly achieved, feeling like you were seeing the concert in an IMAX theater.
The main set culminated with a classic trio of songs from the mid-2000s, turning the entire floor, and many seated areas, into mosh pits. It started with “Bat Country” from 2005’s City Of Evil followed by the relentless, NYC hardcore-influenced “Unholy Confessions”. M. Shadows shouted out their influences from the NYCHC scene that drove their earlier work, including local legends Sick Of It All. The main set ended with “A Little Piece Of Heaven”, a song that perfectly bridges the band’s earlier work with Life Is But A Dream…. The cinematic and structurally experimental song from their self-titled LP could very well fit on the new album. It allowed us to come full circle for one last sing-along for the night.
After a short break, the band reemerged for their encore, hitting the last three songs from Life Is But A Dream… As the titular piano outro played over the PA as they took their bows, it was clear what a special night his has been. The love in the room was enormous. Avenged Sevenfold have garnered a loyal fan base over their 20-year career. Blending elements of classic heavy metal with punk and hardcore into a signature sound that still shakes a sold-out arena. This new LP is a fresh start for the storied band. Emerging from their pandemic-driven hiatus into a new, invigorated era.
Avenged Sevenfold will take a short break as they prepare for the lengthy tour that kicks off next month. Head over to their website for full tour details. Check out our full photo gallery from Madison Square Garden below!