Gig Review + Photography by Chris Bowley

Getting here tonight was not bad considering the Christmas rush, parking is fine and we can see a visible police presence making small talk with the fans and a number of undercover officers are also present, so it’s good to see security is being taken seriously still and in the lead up to Christmas to keep us all safe.

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On entering the arena there is a sizeable crowd present from the off to watch the support acts, California’s Metal core Of Mice and Men and the glorious and busy Swedish Metallers In Flames who also toured with Avenged Sevenfold at the start of the year.

Of Mice and Men kick it off tonight was an fairly static show, the sound was OK,There was an intense atmosphere created and with the departure of Carlile last year, Pauley takes up lead singing and Bass, a combination not seen around much but whatever the combination the show goes on and the sound is delivered. The thing with Pauley being on lead vocals, he does tend to hide a lot centre stage with the mic and the rest of the band pretty much stay tight to their stage spots.

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20171217 - Of Mice and Men Supporting five finger Death Punch - Arena Birmingham - 17122017 - 64

20171217 - Of Mice and Men Supporting five finger Death Punch - Arena Birmingham - 17122017 - 16

In Flames, Start by playing Drained in full behind the curtain and from the side of stage we can see them playing and you’d think they didn’t know the curtain was there giving it all. On curtain being pulled down, wow, the stage is very metal, metal cages rise high above with the keyboardist/Synth and drummer at least 8ft above the stage with the instruments on top must see them looking down about 15-20ft to the arena floor or more (scary). An array of video material is shown with very trippy videos and highly coordinated atmospheric lights. In Flames have a decent array of tunes spread across their albums and tonight many are played but mostly from Battles such as Before I fall, Save Me, a small mosh pit starts but most fans don’t want to, though there is a good level of interaction from cheers to claps and arms rocking, there is no doubt it’s going down well. As all shows go only not as personal “Thank you very much for spending time with us, Even though we as many are a sinking ship, we are here for ever” Ending on The End quite fitting.

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20171217 - Inflames Supporting five finger Death Punch - Arena Birmingham - 17122017 - 31

20171217 - Inflames Supporting five finger Death Punch - Arena Birmingham - 17122017 - 17

Five finger Death Punch are here in the UK touring in support of their ‘A Decade of Destruction’ compilation release which has many of the killer tracks played over the years which need little introduction to many out there. I first heard of 5FDP a few years back and thought they were far too heavy for me, well a few years and that could be “Far From Home”.  I also saw these perform Download which to me, was not really a great performance, though tonight is heavily redeemed Ivan and the band are on form and well worth seeing right now.

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The curtain is drawn back and there is a massive white skull centre stage with crossed baseball bats behind, wow! many must be thinking. Starting out with Lift Me Up, sounding great the fans immediately explode into singing with arms being thrust forwards, onto Never Enough and Wash It All Away. It’s nice to see the huge level of interaction with us media and with the fans. We see backup singer Tommy Vext (fill in singer) and Pauley from Of Mice and Men join for Ain’t My Last Dance. We just keep going from one belter to another, as we hear Bad Company chanted and sang round the whole room.

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Ivan points out to the crowd, those with hand prints on their face to make their way to the stage and he warns security to be nice to them then calls out to the fans “Hello, hello yeah, I can hear you stop shouting” and then followed by “c’mon you’re wasting valuable time” before bursting into Burn Mother F*cker Burn, as the new members of the band (fans) are lined up across the back rocking out and banging away this all ending with him hugging and kissing their heads and cheeks. One day Ivan and I will say hello (hopefully) seems such a nice guy and the world needs more like him.

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My weak spot in music is acoustic tracks, the vocals really show here and the reason for my love is you cannot hide anything, be it mistakes or poor ability, we have I Apologise and Wrong Side of Heaven always crowd favourites as we sing along.

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We see yet another moment of Ivan pointing out fans from the crowd as he asks some young lad to join him on stage, and points to a young girl and someone shouts it’s her birthday, “it’s your birth day, awww c’mon here” he even helps get them up, followed by “why is everyone taking so long tonight?”, as the young lad gets to the stage he raises his arms as the crowd roars to him, Ivan points at him in awe, look at him he gestures. As the young girl gets to the stage and on the centre riser the weirdest thing, only at a rock and metal gig the whole crowd burst into singing happy birthday. He then asks the girl do you remember being his age, “yeah”, and to the lad, you must be looking forward to hers, “no” as Ivan repeats “did you just say no” as everyone laughs and he says “we’ll talk about that later”. Remember Everything is a touching show with Ivan hugging and arms raised with both the fans on stage.

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We are coming to the close of the show with Coming Down followed by I know a lot of bands say it, but this is one of the best crowds of the whole tour as they all roar and now this next song I’m going to dedicate to Christmas Shopping Jekyll and Hyde played really well and into silence and the crowd chanting for more as they clap and get louder and faster Ivan comes out with a skeleton leather jacket with a baseball bat and whacks the crap out of the risers whilst performing and energetic Under and Over It and at which point the bat looks bent as he bashes it into shape again afterwards.

Ivan again, “You on the very end in the red shirt, how are you?”, (lad points to himself) “Yeah, Hi”, “are you doing OK?”, “can you stand up for me” <crowd roars>, “don’t move”, crowd claps and roars as the baseball bat makes its way across to him and crowd cheers, “I’m sorry I always give the bat to someone up here, but you look like you have been having a good time so thank you for coming.”

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Finishing on The Bleeding with a solo following asking for cigarette lighters and cell phones lights as we’re recording this a great end to the show followed by Gone Away (The Offspring song) as a window down recording as they pass out picks and sticks etc to the fans.

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I can fully say this was special, and far greater than the performance at Download Festival 2017. I loved this show and will be a fan for years to come, Ivan and his love for the little people, the level of interaction and the performance on the whole from the heavy hitting Burn MF Burn to the acoustic Wrong Side of Heaven to the metal crowd singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the young lady on stage gaining almost as many roars as the band themselves.

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Gig rating 10/10
Set List:
Lift Me Up
Never Enough
Wash It All Away
Got Your Six
Ain’t My Last Dance (with Tommy Vext) (Also with Aaron Pauley from Of Mice And Men)
Bad Company (Bad Company cover)
Burn MF
I Apologize (Acoustic)
Wrong Side of Heaven (Acoustic)
Remember Everything (Acoustic)
Coming Down
Jekyll and Hyde
Under and Over It
The Bleeding
Gone Away (The Offspring song)

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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