Most opening slots are given over to either up and coming acts or local supports but early punters got a treat this time as Avenged Sevenfold gave fans a complete package by giving the opening slot to Swedish melodic metal stalwarts In Flames.
Despite the early start, the band made the most of their forty-five minutes set time with a consummate performance but, then again, you'd expect nothing less from a band who've been redefining their sound from day one. With new album Battles still relatively new on the shelves and a hefty back catalogue to plunder, the band managed to cram a career-spanning selection into their set time to warm up both their die-hard and new convertees for what was to follow.
American metal titans Disturbed follow and with hit cover of "The Sound Of Silence" introducing the band up to a whole new audience, the future couldn't be brighter for Dave Draiman and his bandmates. A pyro littered stage ramped up the temperature inside the Arena as, like In Flames before them, the US metal band dug deep into their hefty back catalogue with the likes of "Indestructible", the haunting "Sound Of Silence" and that song, "Down With The Sickness", setting the bar ridiculously high for the headliners.
If anyone is questioning who the next generation of big-hitters to take over from Metallica and the like are then they need look no further than Orange County shredders Avenged Sevenfold who took the bar set by Disturbed and kicked it out of the fucking ballpark. Roping in Cirque Du Soliel to help design the stage set for this tour, M.Shadows and his cohorts are clearly not messing about with a show that is quite simply out of this world.
While there are a few unusual fan-favourite ommissions from the eighteen song set list, there are plenty more moments like "Hail To The King", "Buried Alive" and "Nightmare" where Avenged turn up the heat a little bit more and Manchester just loses its shit. In fact, at one point when a dedication to Manchester United goalkeeper and A7X fan David De Gea doesn't get the expected reaction, judging by the puzzled smile on M.Shadows face, it's hard to work out who is enjoying themselves more.
Aside from the awkward moment of having fourteen thousand fans booing a local sports hero, it's a flawless performance from Avenged who show off the epic direction they're taking with plenty of material from new album The Stage and with a three song encore kicking off with hit track "Bat Country", the Californian rockstars have the finish line in sight and race to it showing that, when the old guard hang up their instruments, they are more than capable of keeping the rock flame alive.