It's funny how music styles always manage to come full circle, even the ones some would like to forget. Sure, people may have thrown their stretchy leotard pants and hairspray in the garbage a couple decades ago, but who says hair metal is dead? Definitely not anyone packed into the Long Beach arena last night at the Rockstar Energy Drink Taste of Chaos Tour.
Riotous rock bands Bullet for My Valentine, Atreyu and Avenged Seven Fold took turns reviving the arena rock fantasy for thousands of fans, bros and metal heads alike. Support acts included Japanese head bangers MUCC and D’Espairs Rey as well as Idiot Pilot and Ernie Ball battle of the bands winner The Underneath. Needless to say, the show provided fans with enough bang, flash and thrash for their buck.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch the opening bands, a rule that I often slap myself for breaking. However, in my rush toward the venue my ears perked up as the yellow jacket security guards waved me in through the glass doors. The distorted roar from the guitars of Atreyu’s “Big” Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel had barely settled on the arena as the band started their set. Shirtless front man Alex Varkatzas gave a hardcore hello to the crowd as the five piece launched into their set.
If you managed to fight through the trail of sweaty man flesh, the sludge of smashed beer cups and squawking half dressed teen girls, you probably got a hell of a view of the band exploding through songs like “When the Two Are One,” and “Becoming the Bull” off their latest album Lead Sails Paper Anchor on Hollywood Records.
Brutal, chugging rhythms and guttural screams married with melodic singing and guitar lines, is a style that this band has honed to perfection on stage. As he criss-crossed the stage, and over the ramp behind drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller, Varkatzas looked like he was either training for a marathon or buzzing on happy pills. Whatever it was, the crowd couldn’t get enough of his energy.
The show was also chalk full of glam rock flair, if you can picture the '80s on steroids. I couldn’t help getting flash backs of bands like RATT and Motley Crue as Saller showed off his old-school stick twirling. Jacobs, Miguel and bassist Marc McKnight also got into the act with plenty of cheesy guitar hero posing and dizzying tap riffs. Midway through the show, the fanatical moshers in the pit were willing to do the band’s bidding. This included a highlight of the show when Varkatzas ordered every one in the arena to stick up a lighter, cell phone during a song. It didn’t matter if you were using your mom’s pager as a light, everyone shot up their arms and created a flurry of fire flies in the darkness.
By the end of the show, the crowd was even open to more questionable requests from Varkatzas. Before closing the set with “Lip Gloss and Black,” Varkatzas told the crowd to get on their knees before jumping up in unison at the start of the song. I don’t claim to know the life of a rock star, but I’m pretty sure asking groupies to get on their knees is supposed to happen after the show. But it wasn’t a bad way to cap off the bands high voltage a set.
Without wasting time, a gang of stage techs emerged to set up for Avenged Seven Fold. But what could have been another dreaded waiting period between bands turned into a crowd pleaser as it was announced that the show was being taped for the band’s upcoming live DVD. If that wasn’t enough, the crowd was also going to get a chance to be in a music video from the band’s song “Dear God” off of their latest self-titled album. Swirling crane cameras captured AV7X fans in all their drunken, obnoxious, tattooed glory as search lights bathed the arena.
No fire works, pyro gadgets or strobe lights were spared as the band prepared to walk out under their black and white winged skull banner. A montage of U.S. soldiers in battle played on the twin movie screens on either side of the stage. Though a tribute to our soldiers is by no means a bad thing, it seemed a little border-line propaganda for an arena rock show.
The vibe in the arena definitely got kicked up to a new level of extremes as front man “M. Shadows” unleashed Iron Maiden-esque screams in front of a choir of fireballs that exploded behind drummer “The Rev.” If nothing else, their drummer gets props for keeping the beat and singing back up vocals with spouts of hell fire nipping at his ass song after song.
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From a showmanship standpoint, guitarists “Zacky Vengence and “Synyster Gates” and bassist "Johnny Christ" had the back to back guitar solos down to a science during “Awaken the Fallen” and “Second Hope." I guess when your band decides to take a stage names you better know how to live up to them, and that they did.
The surprises kept coming during a highlight that looked like every rock fan's wet dream. Gates casually plucked the notes of the song “Walk” by metal legends Pantera, the noise from the crowd was as loud as it had been for the entire show, and rightfully so. To make things even more memorable, Shadows did the ultimate gesture by asking if anyone in the front row knew the words.
A shirtless fan named Mateo got pulled up on stage to deliver the first verse and chorus on the song and he actually didn’t suck. In fact, the band asked him to hang out side stage for the rest of the show. For everyone else in the audience, the band may have just given of us a worthy Pantera cover. But our friend Mateo got a a concert story that will probably get him laid for the rest of his life.
As the band said goodnight to the crowd, they did anything but go quietly. The stage erupted in fire works grand enough to rival the fourth of July. This show is further proof that hair metal isn’t dead after all, it just wears darker clothes now.