by Jim Louvau
The Arizona Republic
With a struggling economy and a decrease in concert attendance, fans seem to be getting more bang for their buck these days with multiple bands from the same genre touring together in a festival setting. The first major rock package tour of 2009 hit the valley on Friday night featuring Avenged Sevenfold, Buckcherry, Papa Roach, and new comers Saving Abel. Tour organizers teamed up with promoters to keep the ticket prices low and marketed the bill as $10 per band. Their plan must have worked because the floor and seats were packed at Jobing.com Arena with fans of all ages.
From the first words of Between Angels and Insects (which has aged surprisingly well) from their 2000 debut, Infest, Papa Roach lead singer Jacoby Shaddix had the crowd in a stranglehold that he would refuse to release them from for the next 50 minutes. His energy onstage was relentless and thrilled most of the crowd as they sang along to every word of the anti-Bush anthem Getting Away With Murder. Shaddix wants everyone to be a part of his party and those who still were sitting in their seats were surprised when the singer jumped off the stage and ran into the crowd to get everyone involved in his brand of fun. Guitarist Jerry Horton, bassist Tobin Esperance, and new drummer Tony Palermo were solid and often matched the intensity of their charismatic frontman.
Songs like Scars and Forever were venerable tales of alcohol-soaked love meets heartbreak and disappointment that connected with fans. These guys are more like a hit factory than a band and they closed their outstanding set with their very first single, the rap/rock Last Resort, to a sea of moshers.
Raunchy co-headliners Buckcherry hit the stage next and opened their lengthy set with Tired of You, with singer Josh Todd sporting a Tupac-esque bandana on his head while dancing around the stage. The band was spot-on and Todd's voice sounded great but even their latest single Too Drunk To (Expletive) got little crowd reaction. It's a tough sell when it's been well-documented that Josh Todd has been sober for quite some time now. They did dive into the vault to pull out staples like the cocaine-infused Lit Up and Dead Again, which most of the audience seemed unfamiliar with. It wasn't until they played the strip-club-friendly Crazy (Expletive) and the radio-friendly Sorry that Todd and his band mates knew the crowd had a pulse.
Fashion rockers Avenged Sevenfold closed the evening with a mediocre performance. They tried to kick things into gear opening with the epic Critical Acclaim just as they did last time they paid a visit to the Valley, during last year's Taste of Chaos tour. The difference this time was the pyrotechnics and production weren't there to hide the band's lack of stage presence. Throughout their performance, guitar wizards Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance often appeared bored as they made odd facial expressions and walked around the stage leisurely. Afterlife followed with singer Matt Shadows singing "I don't belong here, we've got to move on here" and that was pretty much the vibe onstage. They looked like a band going through the motions that had been touring behind the same record too long. Things were also a bit awkward when they played their Nashville-inspired Dear God, which was tough to stomach. It took until Unholy Confessions from their best effort Waking The Fallen and a figure-eight circle pit to recover. The show ended with Almost Easy which featured top notch drum skills from The Rev.
This was only second stop of the tour, but Buckcherry and Avenged Sevenfold are going to have to go out and work harder to compete with Papa Roach who on this night delivered the knock-out punch early.