The Nightmare After Christmas Tour rolled into Lexington Friday night, and some of today's hottest bands in rock nearly burned Rupp Arena to the ground (literally).
New Medicine, a young band from Minneapolis, kicked off the show. Led by a front man who looks like a tattooed twin of Nick Swardson (seriously, look at pics of them both- the resemblance is uncanny), their music was pretty good. The very upbeat, poppy-rock songs were fun, especially "Rich Kids," in which the band assures that even though they aren't college educated, they are more than qualified to entertain you, 'cause in rock and roll they "got a PH.D." How can you argue with that? Overall, they aren't going to be the next Metallica (or even New Found Glory for that matter) but they are worth the time to watch on YouTube or maybe even make a purchase from iTunes.
Hollywood Undead stormed the stage next- and when I say stormed, I mean it literally. Amidst the sounds of warning sirens, the hoard of masked band members ran onto the stage in a bit of an overwhelming fashion. Six guys sang, while occasionally playing bass, guitar, keyboard, and electric drums, plus there was one 'real' drummer, who was more of live background music than anything else. They had a sound similar to Linkin Park, with singing mashed up with rap rhymes, especially in "Hear Me Now," the first single off their new album.
I will admit that their set took some getting used to. The singing was live, but the majority of the music was pre-recorded tracks that allowed the bassist, guitarist, and keyboardist, too, to throw in their parts when convenient. But somehow, amongst all the melee, it worked. You couldn't help moving along to the catchy beats of the songs. "Everywhere I Go" was probably their best song of the night, and the entire general admission audience knew every word to the rhyme at the beginning (except me- what a loser, but you'll be happy to know I have since remedied that).
When Stone Sour came onto the stage, the new-age hybrid rap-rock was shoved straight out the windows of the arena. And when front man Corey Taylor ran out and I saw him in person for the first time, I'm not gonna lie- I had a moment. There, right in front of me, was THE Corey Taylor, singer for Stone Sour and Slipknot, a seriously huge rockstar who I had never seen live before. After my sa-woon moment passed and my breathing regulated, I was still having a hard time getting over his appearance. He just looked so...normal. Not a guy that could sing for Slipknot or even the heavier songs of Stone Sour, like "Hell and Consequences." With just a few tattoos, short hair, jeans and a t-shirt, he said it best when he said he looked like "the metal Dougie Howser."
Stone Sour put on an amazing show, one that was much more mellow than I had expected. They did rock out with some more hardcore stuff like "30/30-150" that hadn't had much radio play, the majority of the songs were hits that were familiar favorites, including "Say You'll Haunt Me," the first single from Audio Secrecy. Taylor had solo reign of the stage as he sang an acoustic version of "Bother." But honestly, he was the center of the show the entire set. The rest of the band was great, but not wildly active and or distracting from the show put on by Taylor. It was an amazing show, no doubt about it.
Right before the curtains dropped for Avenged Sevenfold and the stage setup was revealed, it was clear that someone's nightmare was about to begin. A man was standing on top of the light rigs, and around his neck was a white rope noose. He took a step forward and jumped, leaving him swinging back and forth at the front of the stage (where the black cables that were actually supporting him were finally illuminated).
This stunt was just the first of the incredible sights that filled the entire show. The stage was filled with metal gates and stone columns that shot fire skyward so intensely that the fire was hot on the skin of people all the way across the arena. The background banner featured a house that was lit so that the windows glowed like someone inside flipped on a switch. It was an amazing spectacle, and probably the best staging of any show I have ever been to (and at this point I've been to a lot of shows. There was even more flames and fireworks than Nickelback, and like them or not, that's a lot of pyro).
The music itself was perfectly amazing, in true A7X style. The band blasted through almost the entire "Nightmare" album, throwing in other older favorites as well. Though singer M. Shadows tried to lighten the mood by telling jokes and talking about his time at the previous night's Rascal Flatts concert, there was still a strong sense of sadness hanging over the entire show. The sadness, caused by the untimely death of drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan a little over a year ago, penetrated almost every song. The most emotional moment came when they played "So Far Away," which M. Shadows said was "the saddest song," and it really was. A background featuring an image of the band hugging with The Rev in the center was dropped, and as the song ended, touring drummer Arin Ilejay stepped away from the set and the lights all focused on the empty seat. It was a touching moment, without doubt, in a show full of such touching moments.
Don't get me wrong, the show was not made up of entirely sad moments. It was also a rocking explosion of heavy A7X music, from the the first song all the way through "A Little Piece of Heaven" during the encore. The balance of all the moods of the songs made for an emotional roller coaster that left the crowd exhausted but thrilled, unwilling to wake up after the end of this nightmare.