Hope and expectation are frail emotions, fraught with disaster and far too often consumed by the merciless pit of despair that is bitter reality. But when both are met head on, like on this glorious night, there is no better feeling. The monsoon-like conditions which transformed Tyneside into a gravel-skied Venice, prior to a show long since sold out, only served to heighten the need and the desire for something extraordinary. The soggy throng snaked around three sides of Newcastle’s new Mecca for rock needed their spirits lifting and their commitment rewarded: step forward Stone Sour and Avenged Sevenfold.
If the world is still struggling to emerge from a global recession then these bands proved rock is enjoying a rich renaissance right now. Two acts still in their infancy, yet exuding the confidence required to conquer nations, delivered sets designed to prove key credentials and destroy caustic critics. This co-headline tour had always promised so much and ultimately it far exceeded those potentially fragile pre-show expectations.
Up first, Corey Taylor and Jim Root put further distance between their commercially astute side project and the sleeping giant that is Slipknot. The latter somehow appears even more frightening in his civvies than he ever did behind a mask – an incredibly imposing presence alongside the jack-in-the-box that is Stone Sour’s feverish frontman.
Taylor, aided by a constant supply of bottled water, overcame a recurring rasp to throttle a boisterous crowd into submission. Made Of Scars truly activated the agitated masses but Mission Statement was met with a reception confirming the validity and vibrancy of Stone Sour’s new material.
Taylor may have appeared a little too keen to foist new album Audio Secrecy on his devotees but there was no need to ask his audience for approval each time a new track was lined up and ready to go. Stone Sour’s fans need no convincing that the band’s latest opus is a huge leap forward from anything they’ve managed to produce in the past and suddenly the cream of Come What(ever) May‘s crop sounds distinctly average by comparison.
Audio Secrecy has comfortably ushered in a brave new era for a band ready to realise their obvious potential. If Digital is, as Taylor pointed out, an anthem for the download generation then Stone Sour are the band to bring that generation to boiling point.
A7X are already ahead of the game when it comes to overt commercial appeal. Stone Sour’s latest might well lend itself to arena saturation but one of America’s finest exports have made back-to-back records perfect for live music’s mass market. 2007’s self-titled hit only hinted at the dream album that is Nightmare and the title track from one of this year’s obvious highlights kicked off a simply sensational show.
A foreboding backdrop (one of the co-headliners clearly commanded a bigger production budget than the other) laid the foundation for a set chilling in its passion and professionalism. Stand-in drummer Mike Portnoy added considered touches of pure quality to everything A7X chose to perform – his outstanding individual effort both a fitting tribute to the late Rev and essential to the band’s new-found cohesion.
The stone-cold classics came thick and fast as M Shadows maintained a relentless pace and unnerving focus. Behind the shades is a steely vision and the death of a dear friend won’t divert Sevenfold’s charismatic leader from the job in hand: guaranteeing ascendancy to rock’s top table.
So Far Away and Afterlife still sound as vital to the modern rock scene as they did three years ago but Welcome To The Family and So Far Away, culled from Nightmare, offer an exciting glimpse of A7X’s future. On the brink of greatness, this band of beaten but unbowed brothers are surely simply honing their skills before completing the transition from next big thing to genuine big hitters.
The Rev woud be proud. He really would. And if God Hates Us – perhaps the highlight on a night soaked in them – is A7X’s most raw response to last year’s terrible tragedy it strikes a familiar chord with those questioning the hand life deals them. And there are a lot of us.
But for those fortunate to secure entry to the hottest ticket in town life seemed good. Almost too good. When Almost Easy trumped Bat Country as the set closer the sense of a win-win situation was overwhelming. And that’s just what this co-headline tour is. Sweet and Sour.