As 2009 drew to a close, spirits ran high in the Avenged Sevenfold camp. And they had every reason to feel optimistic — after the thundering success of 2007’s Avenged Sevenfold, followed by a raging headlining campaign and the release of 2008’s Live In The LBC & Diamonds In The Rough, they entered the studio that January to record what would be their fifth full-length outing. When the sessions ended, the feeling amongst the guys was electric — they knew they were about to drop their finest work yet on an unsuspecting world.
On December 27, 2009, the band attended the wedding reception of a mutual friend and as the night wore on, one-by-one, the guys — vocalist M. Shadows, guitarists Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, bassist Johnny Christ and drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan — said goodnight to each other and made their way home. It would be the last time any of them saw The Rev alive. The next morning, the Rev’s girlfriend awoke to find him unresponsive. He had passed away in the night from “acute polydrug intoxication due to combined effects of Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Diazepam/Nordiazepam and ethanol.” He was 28 years old.
Devastated but resolute, the band eventually agreed that calling it quits was not an option. — not one that Jimmy would have wanted, at least — and so they enlisted Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy to fill-in for the supporting tour of Nightmare, their magnificent fifth album, which they released in July, 2010. Their optimism had been well-placed; Nightmare knocked Eminem’s Recovery from the top of the charts and debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200.
Despite the walloping success that Nightmare had achieved, both the band and fans continued to grieve the death of the Rev. That supporting tour allowed them to heal together and also to celebrate his legacy in proper Rev style. In one video taken at the band’s show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on October 30, 2010, we see it all play out in sweaty, joyous fashion.
After finishing the second song, Critical Acclaim, Shadows removes his wireless mic, gestures to the crowd and dives into a sea of arms and shoulders. It’s all a bit messianic as hands reach towards him from all directions as they ferry him, relaxed and smiling, back towards the stage. One exceedingly brazen punter reaches for Shadows’ hat. He nods in assent and just like that, the lucky fan takes home a souvenir. Shadows’ t-shirt, sleeveless and threadbare already, is badly ripped as the singer is returned to the stage. He removes what’s left of the shirt and as he approaches the crowd to throw it in, he’s greeted with a new t-shirt, thrown from one of the fans in the front.
Holding the shirt up for the crowd to see, the front bears a massive graphic of The Rev’s face. Shadows nods in enthusiastic approval and immediately puts it on, walking to the mic and saying, “This is my new shirt of Jimmy right here!” A member of the crew jogs up and expertly removes the sleeves as another helps Shadows get his wireless mic back on. And with that, the show goes on.
That fan who made that shirt — identified as “Tom C” on the band’s website — later wrote: “In preparation for what would become the show of a lifetime I made a Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan t-shirt to wear to the gig. As every A7X fan will know, the band has had to deal with some serious stuff this past year with Jimmy’s passing and I know every A7X fan wants to show our love and supported. (sic)”
Shadows wore the shirt for the remainder of the gig - a symbol not just of the wonderful moment, but of Avenged and The Rev's deep connection with their fans. Have a watch below.