Right out of the gate, you have to recognize one simple fact. These guys are rockstars. Unleashing a furious set on the sold-out crowd, Avenged Sevenfold brought to their rabid fans a dynamic mix of heavy metal and hard rock tinged with notes from their metalcore roots.
Taking the stage just a few minutes behind their slotted start time, and without any unnecessary theatrics, the California five-piece threw down their set with a chugging intensity that had the pit heaving from the opening notes until the last.
Leading the charge was M. Shadows, who, decked out in his signature aviator sunglasses, tirelessly worked the length of the wide stage in a fierce performance throughout the night.
Zacky Vengeance, playing rhythm guitar, came out sporting plastic-rimmed glasses a la Buddy Holly and a powder-blue cardigan. Vengeance later shed these Rivers Cuomo costume to reveal a sleeveless look to match M. Shadows and Synyster Gates.
Throughout the show, guitarists Vengeance and Gates rocked out together at the center platform, which made for some great photo opps of the dueling guitars. Zacky Vengeance's left-handed guitar playing created a loose symmetry with Synyster Gates as the two players traded licks.
Between furious double bass and blast beats to metal shredding on the twin guitars, Avenged Sevenfold brought searing, balls-out-rock to their adoring fans like the postman brings the mail.
With simple but effective lighting and all the right power poses, the first three for this show was a surprise slice of concert photography heaven.
Never staying in one place for long, M. Shadows was a moving target throughout the concert. Adding to this challenge was the right-handed singer's tendency to use both hands to grip the mic, which made securing clean shots more difficult.
At the front of the stage, three wide platforms were set up and served double duty as mini-stages and lighting effects. The simple metal platforms, which were skirted in white cloth, featured grills on the top surface and an array of white LEDs below, which would provide underlighting throughout the set.
Aside from their key role in the lighting, these three platforms also became props in an on-going game of musical chairs, as M. Shadows, Zacky Vengeance, Synyster Gates, and Johnny Christ took turns manning these stations with all the appropriate rockstar poses.
Overall, the lighting for the show was very dramatic and relied heavily on the contrasts created between the varied backlighting and the white underlighting at the front of the stage. The platform lighting was intense enough, due to output and also the proximity of the musicians, to keep down the ISO with reasonably fast shutter speeds.
If the Reverend is conspicuously absent from this set, it's because the drummer was hidden behind a fortress of percussion. Featuring far too many pieces to count, the drum kit all but obscured the Rev. Adding insult to injury, lighting on the drummer was almost entirely atmospheric during the first three songs, with little to highlight the impressive kit or its owner.Aside from the man behind the curtain keeping the beat, bassist Johnny Christ was the most subdued character on stage, playing at the front of the stage on occasion, but mostly content to play behind Shadows, Vengeance, and Gates.
For Avenged Sevenfold's set, the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 never left the camera. As per usual, the wide-to-short-tele range was perfect for capturing the energetic live set Avenged Sevenfold brought while shooting from the pit.
Throughout the three-song shoot, the midrange zoom was locked at f/2.8, which made the most of the light on stage and helped keep shutter speeds up.
Though the 17-55mm provided the perfect range for the front-stage shooting, I would have liked the opportunity to get some longer shots with the 70-200mm f/2.8. I think the flatter perspective and different angles afforded from positions outside the pit would have been a nice compliment to the 17-55's images.
Thanks to the warm light coming up through the grates of the front platforms, the mobile band members were well lit so long as they performed above the lights. In a relative luxury, the intensity of these lights was generally enough to shoot between ISO 1000 and 1250. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/80 to 1/250, but mostly hovered around 1/160 second.
The flipside of these bright lights was that the remaining atmospheric lighting was generally less intense and served primarily to compliment the dramatic underlighting. This was most problematic with M. Shadows, whose continual roaming on stage did not always include pauses on the lit platforms.
A big thanks to Brandon at the Pageant for hooking up a pair of earplugs after I lost mine after photographing openers the Black Tide.