Avenged Sevenfold lead singer M. Shadows performs at Joe Louis Arena Sunday night. (Adam Graham / Detroit News)
Avenged Sevenfold’s concert at Joe Louis Arena Sunday night was a pyromaniac’s dream: The California metal outfit nearly burned the Joe to the ground with a show where the fire was as heavy as the music, and kept things toasty in the arena throughout the night.
But while the flames came in all shapes and sizes — from small poofs to big bursts to long shots that looked like they were spat out of the end of a flamethrower — they couldn’t compensate for the band’s lack of charisma. Rather than supplementing the show, they were the show, and the production crutch couldn’t mask that A7X tends to reside on the generic end of the metal spectrum.
Still, the fire show was impressive. Flames rose from the bottom of the stage and were timed to coincide with the band’s riffs, and the blazes were so bountiful that if a fire were to erupt on stage, it would be difficult to tell whether it was a part of the show.
On one hand it works, scaling the band’s visual presentation up to arena proportions. But there’s a lack of substance behind the production that makes it difficult to take the band seriously.
Over 12 years and six albums, Avenged Sevenfold has built up a solid following; in August, “Hail to the King” became the group’s second No. 1 album. But attendance-wise, Sunday’s concert was only about half full, with a packed floor but a spotty upper deck that was completely empty in the back of the arena.
The group’s 100-minute concert opened with “Shepherd of Fire,” the opening track from “Hail to the King.” Soon that king made his presence felt, as a giant skeleton sitting on a throne of skulls was wheeled out in back of the stage. Again, it looked cool, but was no substitute for on-stage personality, which lead singer M. Shadows and crew had a tough time delivering.
In 2009, the band suffered the loss of its drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, and they paid tribute to him Sunday during “Fiction,” displaying his pictures on the stage’s video screens during the song. Right after, it was back to business as usual; the first image seen on the screens during “Nightmare” was a body hanging from a noose.
There were a few stumbles during the show: “This Means War,” from the band’s new album, came off as a virtual rewrite of Metallica’s “Sad But True,” and a late show guitar solo came off as unnecessary padding. Elsewhere, fans gobbled up the set: “Afterlife” became a huge sing-along, and closer “Unholy Confessions” caused at least five circle pits to break out on the main floor.
Outside of the faithful, however, Avenged Sevenfold isn’t winning any new converts. Theirs is a big scale show that feels hollow on the inside, proving that flames and pyro can’t make up for a lack of human connectivity.
The band did have the good sense to stack the deck with a pair or potent opening acts, however. California metal veterans Deftones tore through their 40-minute set with the kind of carnivorous energy Avenged Sevenfold lacked, with livewire frontman Chino Moreno darting around the stage like a madman hopped up on energy drinks. And costumed Swedish rockers Ghost opened the evening with a 30-minute set of melodic metal that was enhanced by — not overwhelmed by — its visual presentation. Even without the benefit of production, both bands managed to outshine the night’s headliner.