First up last night was Minneapolis' New Medicine, an alt-rock act that I'd never heard of before the tour was announced. Their rap-rock style is nothing that hasn't been heard on the radio a million times before, though they are technically proficient. As is perhaps too typical for the first warm-up act, New Medicine tried a bit too hard to be "cool" and ingratiate themselves with the fans (even hawking their CDs in the crowd after their set) which ultimately distracted from their music.
Hollywood Undead is likewise light on innovation, but they more than made up for it through sheer energy and genuine confidence. Clearly a hit with the Hot Topic element in the audience, their infectious rap-metal style does have a way of getting under the skin (in a good way) and drawing you in. "Everywhere I Go" is simply a fun listen, and "Undead" bounds you with it's groove and swirling riffs.
As I said, I am not a Corey Taylor fan by any means (Slipknot has forever tarnished his reputation in my eyes) but I was willing to wait through Stone Sour until A7X hit the stage. Perhaps that's a bit too harsh since I do like "Say You'll Haunt Me", so I was looking forward to that bit of the show. Corey didn't disappoint fans of his between-song bantering, commenting on his hair growing out and other irrelevant matters, but his grip on the crowd's attention was undeniable. Stone Sour belted out the rock radio favorites in what was, I assume, typical fashion for the band. For me the performance was lukewarm, but I'm sure my bias has something to do with that.
Avenged Sevenfold's portion of the show was, by far, the highlight of the concert. Sure, they're the headliners and it's on them to really bring the goods but we've all been to concerts where that just didn't happen. The stage props were pretty wild, with plenty of flash pots and appropriately eerie lighting. The dude hanging himself from the rig as "Nightmare" kicked off the set was a bit over the top, though. M. Shadows engaged the crowd immediately with jokes about the previous night's Rascal Flatts concert and held on to their attention with numerous references to fallen drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan. Recent on-tour replacement Arin Ilejay (ex-Confide) was extremely impressive behind the kit, especially considering that he's been with A7X less than a month. The band rolled through a strong set featuring "Welcome to the Family", "God Hates Us" (in direct response to the abundance of religious songs at the Flatts show), "Danger Line", and "So Far Away" before a moving encore dedicated to The Rev. I was surprised that "Almost Easy" wasn't on the set list, but the show certainly didn't suffer for it.
Overall the Nightmare After Christmas performance was good. Understandably a little weak at the start (you never want your opening act to kick the headliner's ass), Avenged finished strong and were the cause of pits galore on the floor. The band has routinely made Lexington a stop on their tours, so here's to hoping that more acts follow suit.
* fan-shot footage of the January 28th Avenged Sevenfold concert at Lexington's Rupp Arena.