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Bullet For My Valentine // Live @ Hard Rock Orlando // 11.10.23

Article and Photos by: Courtney Thomassen


A sold out crowd full of black tees and ripped jeans packed Universal Orlando’s Hard Rock Live for Bullet For My Valentine’s final North American tour date of 2023.

Des Moines metal group Vended opened the show, walking out to Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” at 8PM. Though their time on stage lasted only 5 songs, the band made the most of the short set. From one side of the pit to the other the crowd was kept fully engaged, moshing and cheering along with singles including “Ded to Me” and “Overall.” At the closing of the first set, vocalist Griffin Taylor was joined by his bandmates at the front of the stage to throw cups of water, setlists, picks and drumsticks out to the fans on the floor. Only a half hour into the show, the energy already felt like the conclusion of a headliner.

In reality, the night had only just begun, and soon enough Of Mice and Men was walking out to start the second set. Opening tracks “Bones Exposed” and “Would You Still Be There” brought fans back to the mid 2010s before the band pulled from their most recent release. Phones that had been recording the band turned to the center of the pit as vocalist and bassist Aaron Pauley called for the crowd to split for 2023 track “Into The Sun.” The mosh pit still had yet to peak though, and the track immediately following was the band’s heaviest. Crowd surfers poured over the barricade during “Warpaint” and the band thanked the security positioned at the rail before ending with fan favorite “Second & Sebring.”

After two sets that already felt like headliners, it was time for the true main event when the stage lights dimmed one last time at 10PM. Blue strips of light positioned below a long row of cabinets shone bright blue as smoke billowed over the stage, creating a moody atmosphere as drummer Jason Bowld’s silhouette emerged over his kit. Each band member took their place on stage as the screams and cheers rang out from the crowd. One fan positioned at the rail screamed he’d been waiting 12 years for this. It’s rare for the Welsh band to play in America, at the start of this tour it had been five years since their last US show. For many in the crowd it was either their first time seeing the band live or the first time in a while. According to vocalist and guitarist Matthew Tuck, they had a lot of catching up to do; they started doing it right away with “Knives” from the 2021 self-titled album and “Over It” from 2018’s Gravity. One of the band’s most popular songs, “Your Betrayal,” appeared early on the setlist and predictably was a huge crowd pleaser. “4 Words (To Choke Upon)” appeared as the first on the set from Bullet’s 2005 debut album The Poison. On the topic of The Poison, Tuck noted that this year will mark the band’s 20th anniversary. The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to them in a sweet moment between songs. More songs new and old followed, including “The Last Fight,” “Shatter,” and “You Wanted a Battle (Here’s A War)” before the 2021 track “Rainbow Veins” seemingly closed out the main set. Although it was still early, the stage went dark and a long intermission led to chants of “Bullet” breaking out across the venue. The band did return with an encore of 4 songs including fan favorite “Tears Don’t Fall,” during which the band was joined by special guest vocalist Matthew Kheafy of Trivium. Tuck thanked the fans and supporting bands before introducing the final song of the night, “Waking the Demon.” The chants for one more song brought the band out for a final encore, this time only one song long. “Hearts Burst Into Fire” was, in Tuck’s words, a fitting end to the tour. As the last notes faded out the band came to the front of the stage to say goodbye and throw setlists folded into paper airplanes into the crowd, Bullet For My Valentine’s North American tour concluded. Luckily for their American fans the band did promise to return in 2025, their wait will not be as long this time around.


Courtney Thomassen
After spending years as an avid fan of music and photography, my separate interests became a singular passion in the summer of 2021. Ever since that first concert post-lockdown, I have strived to capture the nights worth remembering. There is nothing that beats the rush of live music, but being able to relive that time through photographs sure comes close.