On January 26, 2011 the Nightmare After Christmas tour rolled into Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Civic Coliseum will never be the same. Freezing temperatures and snow showers did not deter some fans from driving for hours or arriving early including those who waited in line since that morning. We slipped in about an hour before the show and it took us waiting almost 40 minutes in a line that wrapped around the Coliseum to get inside. Once inside it appeared there were so many people that some concert goers seemed to be hanging from the rafters, this was one packed concert. To say this show was sold out seems like an understatement. I have never seen this venue at such a capacity. This tour may be called Nightmare After Christmas, but let me tell you, it is definitely far from a nightmare. The show was scheduled to start at 6:30, but unfortunately some lighting issues held up the start until they could resolve the problem.
After the lighting was ready to go the show kicked off at about 7:00 p.m. with the first band of the evening, the Minneapolis, Minnesota quartet New Medicine. A sort of rock/punk fusion band is the best way I can describe them. I had heard them compared to Rage Against the Machine, I never understood this comparison, until I heard them live. Live you absolutely get that Rage influence, mostly because of the vocals of singer Jake Scherer. They put in a solid 25 minute set and performed several songs off their debut album Race You To The Bottom including “Little Sister” a song about vocalist Scherer’s sister who passed away. They also played the infectious tune, “The Take Over.” New Medicine got the evening off to a good start and they certainly got the crowd warmed up and ready to go. The guys in the band could be seen walking in the audience after their set giving out CDs for a nominal fee, and signing autographs. I must say, way to hustle your product guys.
Next up was the Los Angeles, California band Hollywood Undead. I will tell you up front that I was really not a Hollywood Undead fan, so they had to do a lot to impress me. They performed songs off both their 2008 release Swan Songs and their recently released CD American Tragedy. The band is known to wear masks but surprising removed them a couple of songs in and it was an unexpected moment. After seeing them live, I prefer when they add more significant melody infusion to their songs instead of straight rap. In my opinion a more melodic sound is a good direction for them to head in. I think they could pull it off, because they have the vocal talent. There are a few stand outs in this band, Danny (vocals), a multi-tasker named J-Dog (rhythm guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, programming and vocals), Charlie Scene (vocals, lead guitar) and Da Kurlzz (drums, percussion, vocals) these four guys are hungry and you can tell they want it and gave you everything they had. The bottom line on this band is they are fun and entertaining and if you like The Beastie Boys, then you will like Hollywood Undead. They gave it their all and it was a decent 35 minute set.
Now on to Stone Sour who hit the stage about 8:35. How would I describe Stone Sour? I have four words for you, Corey M*ther F**king Taylor. Seriously that is all I need to say. Most people know Corey as the front man for the metal band Slipknot, but he is also the front man and the heart of Stone Sour. Corey commands the stage and he knows exactly what he is doing. He is forceful when he needs to be and also knows when to bring the tone down. Corey shows you that underneath all those fuck yous, he feels deeply and is more sensitive than you would ever imagine a guy from Slipknot could be.
Stone Sour started their set with “Mission Statement” off of their latest CD “Audio Secrecy,” which was recorded in Nashville, TN. Right off the bat this band definitely got your heart pumping. One thing that surprised me was that Corey had no backup vocals, seriously he doesn’t. He carries all the singing responsibilities and you don’t even notice Stone Sour just doesn’t need it. Corey apologized ahead of time if he messed up the vocals on their latest single “Hesitate,” he didn’t need to, it was beautiful, flawless, perfect. This was an absolutely fantastic set that covered songs off all three of their albums the self titled Stone Sour, the 2006 release Come What(ever) May and Audio Secrecy. Some song highlights for me were “Bother,” “Through Glass,” ”Say You’ll Haunt Me” and the show closer, the completely aggressive and fantastic song “30/30-150.” One fun moment during the set was when Corey took a picture of the audience and immediately posted it to his Twitter page. Here is the actual picture Corey took.
Now on to the highlight of the evening Avenged Sevenfold and yes it was most certainly a huge highlight. This was my first A7X show and there is absolutely nothing like it. Their stage set was big and suited the performance and I have never seen more pyrotechnics in my life. I was close to the stage and the heat from all those flames was intense, this entire show is intense, theatrical and just plain LOUD.
Once I heard the intro to their first song “Nightmare” I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest, the excitement was boiling over. The fog was flowing off the stage, the air was thick with anticipation and then BOOM they hit the stage and it was on. M. Shadows, Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance and Johnny Christ are talented musicians, but more than that they completely know how to work every inch of the stage and every person in the crowd. I don’t believe anyone sat down through a majority of A7X’s set. Who could sit down, you are compelled to stand, to scream, to yell, to throw your fists in the air. I believe a permanent smile was affixed to my face the entire time. Judge me if you will, I could not have been happier to be at this show.
They ran the gamut of their song catalog from “Unholy Confessions” from their 2003 release Waking the Fallen, “Bat Country” off of the 2005 release City of Evil, and a few tracks including “Critical Acclaim” and “Afterlife” off of their 2007 self titled CD. A majority of their set though consisted of songs off of their 2010 album release Nighmare.
A7X’s new touring drummer Arin Ilejay held his own. Arin has a huge void to fill in Avenged Sevenfold and he is giving everything he has to make the members of A7X and The Rev himself proud. I am not saying he never missed a beat, but he won me over, Arin is a hard worker. He is an animal behind the drums with arms, hair and head flailing everywhere, this guy is a talented drummer. Another thing I noticed is how each member of A7X made a point to come back to Arin and you could see they were giving him support and encouragement.
The Rev may have passed away, but you could feel him in the room that night. From the way the band still uses his original vocals on his vocal parts, to the heartfelt dedication M. Shadows gave Jimmy before they played a heart wrenching rendition of “So Far Away.” There Jimmy was, larger than life in the backdrop of their set and I couldn’t help but tear up to witness the amount of love there was in the room for Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan.
The encore brought forth another great moment for the evening during the song “Fiction.” The last song Jimmy delivered to the band before his death and something I never expected to see the band perform live, but thankfully they did. On stage was M. Shadows, Syn Gates, Arin Ilejay and a piano with a spotlight shining on it. This was a very poignant moment and I must say Syn and Shadows performed some great duel vocals on this song and hearing Jimmy’s voice during his sections, absolutely priceless. It is definitely a highlight to always be remembered. A7X closed out the show with a fitting song “A Little Piece of Heaven.” Bye bye and on that note the show was over.
Avenged Sevenfold puts on one of the strongest and best performances I believe I have ever seen and let me tell you I have seen a lot, ALOT. I have absolutely nothing to complain about, nothing. I loved every minute of it, you had aggression, you had fun, you had heartfelt moments, it was slow, fast, there was pyro, crowd interaction, band interaction, A7X has it all. Yes it had everything, the only thing missing was The Rev, he may be physically no longer on this earth, but he was in that Coliseum.
The Nightmare After Christmas tour is total entertainment, with a variety of musical styles and types of performances. This is concert going at its finest and absolutely a can’t miss show and I recommend you don’t. My highlights were Stone Sour and Avenged Sevenfold, they had completely magnificent performances and I wish I could do it all over again. I can’t wait until these guys come back through town. Corey Taylor said they would be back to Knoxville in a few months and I am going to hold him to that. A7X also said they would be returning and I sincerely hope they do. I will always remember this show, now and foREVer.