with Volbeat, Killswitch Engage, and Avatar
Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
Sept 20th, 2016 – Ft. Wayne, IN
Recently, The Music Pill got the chance to sneak up to Ft. Wayne, IN on a Tuesday night to check out a fantastic show at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. The show featured four really solid bands. Swedish Metal band Avatar opened and were followed by Killswitch Engage and Volbeat. Filling out the bill was the explosive Avenged Sevenfold.
The review below compares Avatar and Killswitch to recent shows that I’ve already reviewed, and then dives a bit deeper on Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold. Hope you enjoy!
The Coliseum is a really great venue that has really become a mainstay in the midwest For bands that don’t want to make it all the way down to Indianapolis, this Ft. Wayne venue offers a perfect option. It has a concert capacity of just over ten thousand, making it the perfect size for a stadium show. (Big enough to feel like a stadium show, but small enough that it feels intimate from everywhere in the building.) It also has a new feel to it – full bars with craft beer options, better than average food, and plenty of decently clean restrooms. On top of all that, the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. Case in point – as I walked out of the show, a security guard was high fiving everyone and saying “Thanks for coming to rock out!” It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite venues to check out a show.
Avatar kicked off the night with a really spirited show. For those unfamiliar, Avatar is a Swedish metal band that combines an intense screamo-sound with approachable choruses and catchy guitar hooks. Their quality music is delivered in a really unique show that uses stellar theatrics to transport you to the heart of a nightmareish carnival. I criticized Avatar recently for a mailing in a show at this year’s Rock on the Range but am thrilled to report that they were firing on all cylinders in Ft. Wayne. This show had all of the delectable eeriness that the ROTR show was missing, and I loved it. If you don’t know Avatar – give them a shot.
Killswitch Engage was up next and sustained the high level show that Avatar started. I could point out several components that stood out, but there’s no question that the most impressive piece was the vocals of singer Jesse Leach. He absolutely dominated this show, easily bellowing lyrics that he has struggled with before. Their nine-song set peppered in hits from all over their catalog, and quite honestly I couldn’t come up with a negative comment about this show with a gun to my head. They also crushed a show at Chicago Open Air in July, and have really become a rare example of incredible consistency. If Killswitch is playing, you might as well assume it’s going to be fantastic.
Next up, we changed gears completely, backing off of metal for a Volbeat rock show. When someone refers to a band as “original” the first name I come to is Foxy Shazam, but the second is Volbeat. It took several years for Volbeat to simmer to the top for me, but I’m definitely a full-fledged fan by now. A big part of that is the strength of their live show.
Volbeat kept this particular show relatively hard, eschewing most of their slower material for hard-hitting songs. Some were blatantly hard, like “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” and “Dead but Rising”, however, it was in the deceptively hard tracks, like the Johnny Cash-inspired “Sad Man’s Tongue” that really featured Volbeat’s creativity. Other highlights were the fast-paced “16 Dollars”, and my personal favorite – their closer “Still Counting”.
The best part of the show? Without a doubt, the beginning of “Still Counting”. Vocalist Michael Paulsen grinned, scanned the crowd, and strummed his guitar while he sang his favorite lyrics.
“Counting all the assholes in the room…..”
This was another great show by Volbeat. From the infectious grooves to their interesting lyrics, the show made you laugh, sing, scream, and bang your head. What else can you ask for? It’s a week later and I still have “…a pocket full of real tales and a broken guitar mode” on a constant loop in my head. Kudos on a great performance!
To close out the night, Avenged Sevenfold pulled together a two-hour show that left a lasting impression. They also lit things on fire. (Not Rammstein amounts of fire, but lots and lots of fire nonetheless). This show was really fun to watch. It was certainly on par with previous shows in terms of quality, but a couple of unique elements make it stand out. For starters, there was definitely a laid-back vibe to this show. There were still blistering guitar solos and pummeling drum fills, but it seemed that the band was deliberately slowing the pace of the show down. Some songs felt slower, but particularly in the dead space between songs, it just felt like they were taking their time. The result was a much stronger connection to the audience – an “around the fireplace” feel. My conjecture is that this is a result of the show being part of a five-show mini-tour that gave them a bit of a different approach than a full headlining tour would. It was an interesting change of pace, but there’s no question the intensity suffered as a result.
Another unique factor is that this show had a highly unusual setlist. Avenged Sevenfold hasn’t had a new album since 2013, and thus the band was free from the pressure of playing a bunch of songs off of a newly released album. Rather, they were afforded the luxury of cherry-picking songs from all throughout their catalog, many of which haven’t seen a live show in years. For every “Beast and the Harlot” and “Critical Acclaim” they played, there was a song like “Gunslinger”, or “To End the Rapture” that most of us have never heard Avenged Sevenfold play.
Highlights of this show were plentiful, but a couple that I’ll point out specifically.
- The night opened with the eerily-delicious “Nightmare”. This song makes for a fantastic opening. Intricate drumming, dueling guitar solos in the middle of the song, and the ability for everyone in the crowd to scream NIGHTMARE at the top of their lungs.
- “Hail to the King” was also a great live song. As Zacky Vengence played the intro riff, singer M. Shadows incited the crowd with repetitive screams of “HAIL”. The entire crowd pumped a fist along in tandem with the chants. When the intro finished, the rest of the band (and of course, the fire) all layered in to create one of the best moments of the show.
- The last three songs before the encore were also an extremely strong stretch. “Beast and the Harlot”, “Bat Country”, and “Unholy Confessions” are three of the best ammunition Avenged Sevenfold has, and playing those three back to back was exceptional. The intro riff to “Unholy Confessions” was just awesome, and on top of that, M. Shadows yelled a quote that I absolutely love.
“He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” -Dr. Samuel Johnson
- The final song they played, which is the opus titled “A Little Piece of Heaven”, is a goofy rendition that ends up being a blast live. Disturbing lyrics aside (and…they are most definitely disturbing), the musical composition of this songalways blows me away. It also makes me desperately miss The Rev, but I digress.
Check out a great highlight reel below.
Overall, this was a great night for music. The combination of bands was perfect – different enough, yet they followed a common thread that made the show coherent and fun. Driving two hours there and two hours back from Indianapolis is never fun, but the show was more than worth it.