Saturday, October 8, 2011

The American Carnage Tour (2010), Part II: Testament, Megadeth, & Slayer!

Post # 165
Picking up where I left off from part I of this review (post #146), my new friends and I left the VIP suite as Megadeth bid us farewell as they went backstage to prepare for the show. We were granted early entry to the floor-level and vendors. I made a short detour to get a souvenir tour T-shirt (I chose the Megadeth: RUST IN PEACE 20th Anniversary Tour shirt). Then I entered the arena floor and got right up close to the front barricade. There was one row of people in front of me, and I had a great view of the stage. This was sure to be an awesome show!

Time seemed to drag for a while. I conversed here and there with other fans, and watched the crowd slowly fill in the standing-room-only floor level. But finally the wait paid off: Testament took the stage to deliver their set of killer thrash-metal!

When it comes to thrash metal, everyone probably think of the Big Four first, particularly in the last couple years when they have been performing select shows together for the first time. However if there was a 5th thrash band on the totem-pole when it comes to significance in the genre, it is probably Testament. Their energy, bone-crushing heavy riffs, and seriously fast-paced tempos served to prove that they were right at home with two of the Big Four whom they were opening for.

They opened their set with the intro from their latest album The Formation of Damnation. This album was a true return to form for Testament, and they are helping bring traditional thrash back to prominence in today's metal scene. Inevitably, with the break-neck pace of their music came the break-neck intensity of the mosh-pit. It had erupted about 3 or 4 rows of people behind me, and the people who opted out of moshing crammed more closely together. The physical pressure of being packed so tightly together and close to the front barricade built to an uncomfortable level many times, but I'd be damned if I was going to give up this close spot before I had my chance to see Megadeth this close. So I toughed it out, and managed to hold my own through their set.

Testament delivered a killer set, too! I recognized such classics as 'The New Order' and 'Practice What You Preach' before it was all said and done. My favorite moment, though, had to be during their performance of the title-track 'The Formation of Damnation'. The band paused before the closing thrash segment and gave singer Chuck Billy a chance to direct the crowd into a face-off mosh, and he directed the crowd to spread out to either one side or the other of the stadium floor, then when the music kicked back in, they charged each other with as much of their furious abandon as they could manage! After they finished their set we all had a few minutes to catch our breath and prepare for Megadeth...

Many of us knew they were intending to play the entire Rust In Peace album on this night. I for one, couldn't wait. This has long been my favorite Megadeth album, perhaps my favorite metal album of all time! You can go back and read post #1 if you don't believe how much I praise this album for it's technical, speed-driven riffs. Before long, the band took the stage...

Dave Mustaine, one of the founders of the thrash-metal genre, walked to center stage. Clad in his trademark plain white, light weight shirt and jeans, with his signature flying 'V' Dean guitar, he muttered a quick, 'Here we GO!' and instantly flew into the opening riff of 'Holy Wars... The Punishment Due'. For the next 45 minutes there was no looking back...

My adrenal glands got the best of me, and I was helpless to sing along to one of my all-time favorite thrashers, 'BROTHER WILL KILL BROTHER! SPILLING BLOOD ACROSS THE LAND! KILLING FOR RELIGION, SOMETHING I DON'T UNDERSTAND!' I think I sang along for the entire first song. I could see Dave up at the mike, and I could hear the crowd behind my own voice, also singing along. For all I could hear, Mustaine could have been lip-syncing. I could see his jaw moving, but his mop of blond hair kept his face partially obscured. Dave Ellefson and Chris Broderick were thrashing along, keeping perfect time... the band seemed so tight! The fast-paced, complex riffs that overflow the Rust In Peace album seemed second-nature to Megadeth. This was a technical masterpiece of heavy metal being brought to life for the lucky fans that attended this tour.

At some point I cut back on the singing-along, perhaps because my throat was getting dry. This was in early August, remember, and the mass of bodies was making the heat more and more apparent. When they got to 'Poison Was The Cure', the band went back-stage to swap instruments, while Ellefson kept us entertained with the song's bass-intro. Shawn Drove returned to the drum-kit and added the next ingredient, closely followed by Dave and Chris on guitar. Then, right on cue with the song, the intensity was back, and the crowd resumed undulating with headbanging and moshing!

Megadeth continued to fly through this masterpiece album! Some other highlights of the performance for me were Dave Ellefson's bass spotlight during the track 'Dawn Patrol'. During that number, David Ellefson was alone on-stage, while Dave Mustaine spoke the dialog/lyrics from back-stage somewhere. Also, this was the part of the show where Vic Rattlehead walked onto the stage and pointed intimidatingly at us. After this number concluded it was on to 'Rust In Peace... Polaris', the last track on the Rust In Peace album.

Megadeth still had more for us, and they played about 5 more numbers from the rest of their catalog. They saved 'Peace Sells' for their closing number, but it came with a nice twist this time... As the song was about to end, they surprised us by jumping back to the guitar solo from 'Holy Wars...'! The band jammed a few more minutes on that number, during which Dave Mustaine introduced the band, traded several solos with Chris Broderick, and then wrapped it up as 'Holy Wars...' ended: "Next thing you know, they'll take my thoughts away!"

I couldn't imagine a better way to see Megadeth for the first time, except maybe for a longer set! During this intermission, I finally chose to give up my front-row location to seek out the water fountains- I was pretty dehydrated! I found them, and waited through the line to get replenished, then returned to the arena floor. By this time I think I had lost track of some of my new friends, but before the show resumed I did bump into one of them again. But now, it was time for SLAYER!

In slightly different fashion, Slayer kick off their set with 2 tracks back-to-back, from their newest album: 'World Painted Blood', and 'Hate Worldwide'. Then, the anticipated 20th anniversary celebration of their classic album Seasons In The Abyss began as Tom Araya shouted, "WAR ENSEMBLE!"

Seasons In The Abyss (which I reviewed earlier this year already) starts off with 3 tracks that, on the recording, pick up after each other with barely a pause between the tracks. To the best of my recollection, Slayer played them live in a similar fashion: 'War Ensemble', 'Blood Red', and 'Spirit In Black'. They continued through their classic album, with true-to-the-recording accuracy, much like Megadeth had done before them. Again, they added a few of their best known songs after the Seasons In The Abyss performance was over.

To me this was a legendary night of thrash-metal icons performing at their best! From the golden opportunity of meeting the members of Megadeth, and hanging with the before the show, to the KILLER performances of all three bands, to the new friends I made on this day, I'm tempted to say this was the best concert of my life! I hope to catch each of these bands again at points in the future. For now, I'll leave you with their set-lists so you can listen for yourself to at lease some form of this night's great metal music!

-For the Glory of...
-More Than Meets the Eye
-Dog Faced Gods
-The New Order
-Practice What You Preach
-Into the Pit
-3 Days in Darkness
-The Formation of Damnation

-Holy Wars... The Punishment Due
-Hangar 18
-Take No Prisoners
-Five Magics
-Poison Was the Cure
-Tornado of Souls
-Dawn Patrol
-Rust in Peace... Polaris

-Head Crusher
-A Tout Le Monde
-Symphony of Destruction
-Peace Sells/Holy Wars (reprise)

-World Painted Blood
-Hate Worldwide

-War Ensemble
-Blood Red
-Spirit in Black
-Expendable Youth
-Dead Skin Mask
-Hallowed Point
-Skeletons of Society
-Born of Fire
-Seasons in the Abyss

-South of Heaven
-Raining Blood
-Aggressive Perfector
-Angel of Death

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