Everynight Charley

Avenged Sevenfold at Madison Square Garden / June 23, 2023

Avenged Sevenfold is among heavy metal’s most musically-adventurous bands. The band formed as a metalcore band in 1999 in Huntington Beach, California. Within a few years, the music gravitated to a more classic metal and hard rock sound. In recent years, the band leaned in the direction of progressive metal. The band’s eighth and most recent studio album, Life Is but a Dream…, released on June 2, shows the band adopting avant-garde metal arrangements.

Live, however, as in the band’s debut appearance at Madison Square Garden on June 23, the concoction was a bit of this and a bit of that. The set list touched on seven of the band’s albums, and focused heavily on the new and lesser-known product. The diversity did not always click beautifully, but the band’s attempt to bring it all together was stellar.

Ticket buyers invested in the concert based on Avenged Sevenfold’s history, as the band released Life Is but a Dream…, its first album in seven years, only three weeks before the concert. The new material demonstrated that during the band’s extended quiet period, it quietly committed itself to not repeating any previous formulas for its next project. Vocalist M. Shadows, rhythm guitarist Zacky Vengeance, lead guitarist Synyster Gates, bassist Johnny Christ, and drummer Brooks Wackerman further proved that there was more to heavy metal than headbanging.

The stage at Madison Square Garden was at least twice as large as the usual stage, capable of hosting two entire orchestras. The main area was surrounding by projection screens. There were no fire pots or confetti cannons.

After sets by Living Colour and Falling in Reverse, Avenged Sevenfold came on stage in a mysterious way. As curious kinetic projections moved on the screens, the musicians paced the large stage, mostly in darkness, while Shadows sat center stage on a chair, wearing a zippered waist jacket and black ski mask. The show opener was “Game Over” from the current album.

Due to flight delays, the band was unable to do a sound check, and it showed, as the crew worked to regulate the sound mix during the initial songs. Shadows could barely be heard. As the opening song switched gears midway from thrash to mellow, Shadows left his chair and walked to the edge of the stage to work the audience, but still barely could be heard, as he switched from croons to screams. 

Much the same happened with the second song, “Mattel,” also from the newest album and featuring tempo and intensity fluctuations. At least for this song, Shadows removed his ski mask. As the front line of players continually paced the large stage, Shadows often sang from the front corners of the stage, where small teleprompters rolled the complicated lyrics to his songs.

By the third song, the sound improved greatly. Shadows took off his jacket and welcomed the audience. The band’s more familiar sounds finally chimed in with twin guitar leads and crunching power chords. The audience joined in the singing as the band entered into the fan favorites, “Afterlife” and “Hail to the King.” From there, the band provided a high energy performance with numerous songs from its most successful albums.

Among the fails of the show was that the stage was unnecessarily large for a quintet; the front line musicians spent so much time pacing when a more compressed panorama would have allowed the audience to better capture what was happening musically. Also, flashing lights often partly blinded the audience while the musicians ironically played in darkness. Lastly, the band played seven songs from a new album that is perhaps forward-thinking and boundary-stretching but is also just plain weird at times. Most puzzling of all, the band closed the show with a low-key suite of three new songs, “G,” “(O)rdinary,” and “(D)eath,” instead of charging into an energized, familiar song.

Avenged Sevenfold is going through another phase, and the musical growth had its shining moments in concerts. The audience got a healthy helping of passionate singing, soaring guitar shreds and double bass drumming. The band’s new experimental sound is intriguing but it has not yet reached the level of finesse that would take the band into the highest level of perfection.



  1. Game Over
  2. Mattel
  3. Afterlife
  4. Hail to the King
  5. We Love You
  6. Buried Alive
  7. The Stage (included snippet of “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin)
  8. So Far Away
  9. Nobody
  10. Nightmare
  11. Bat Country
  12. Unholy Confessions
  13. A Little Piece of Heaven
  14. G (>) (O)rdinary (>) (D)eath
Photo by Everynight Charley