Saturday, August 21, 2010

Live Review: Slayer, Megadeth, Testament at UIC Pavilion, Chicago 2010

Slayer | Megadeath | Testament

UIC Pavilion - Chicago, IL
August 20, 2010

I first saw Slayer live in ‘85. The band has never let me down in concert, although their material during the Lombardo-less years certainly did. Recently, I had little interest in seeing them with Marilyn Manson. but still did anyway. Who tours with Manson on two consecutive tours? Fuck.

Slayer’s new(ish) album World Painted Blood was recorded with a similar mindset of Death Magnetic. Get back to the basics. Remember what it was like to be hungry. This, of course, is easier said than done. While Slayer aren’t jetting around the world in the same lap of luxury that Metallica are, they’re certainly not starving artists. Going back to “that place” is impossible and landmark albums should never be the measure for new ones. That said, I think WPB is the best Slayer album since Seasons in The Abyss.

Given the history between the bands, I was a little surprised when it was announced Slayer would be touring with Megadeth. It made sense for the Big 4 shows, but who'd want to spend extra time with Dave Mustaine? Testament is also part of the package, but I never could get into this band. Cool album covers, mediocre music. Sorry.

The tour was postponed after a run through Canada due to Tom Araya’s back surgery. After healing, Slayer and Megadeth played the Big Four concerts in Europe with Metallica and Anthrax.
Are we caught up with the bullshit?  Good.

On this tour Slayer is playing the aforementioned Seasons in its entirety. Megadeth is playing Rust In Peace in its entirety as well. These two albums are arguably the best two metal albums released in 1990. We purposely missed Testament, and arrived to see the typical Slayer crowd: Young, angry, and pissed off. Also: White trash. Slayer, like Down and Pantera fall into the “Love the band, hate the fans” category for me. Many bands who had their heyday in the 80s tend to skew towards an older crowd, whereas Slayer appeals to the younger, disconnected crowd. Whatever. I’d still rather amongst those misfits than a crowd content to stare at a stage with zero emotion or interaction.

Megadeth got right into it opening with "Holy Wars… The Punishment Due." Thankfully, the crowd also got into it. It has been years since I’ve seen an American crowd with this much action on the floor. Unlike most metal shows, which involve 1) the crush and 2) small pits here and there. This was a full floor of movement and circle pits. UIC Pavilion has just started hosting concerts again with any regularity, and security was simply overwhelmed and understaffed. If you had a seat in the lower bowl, it was easily upgraded to the floor with a simple jump over the rail.


Mustaine rarely looked up from his guitar, although he did smile more than I can ever remember. His vocals aren’t as strong as they once were, and were also buried in the mix, but the first 75% of the set was surprisingly strong. I made a break for the bathroom and beer when they went to more radio-friendly Countdown To Extinction songs but they ended on a high note with "Peace Sells."

A fairly short break and then...

Two quick songs from WPB, both of which went over really well with the crowd, and then straight into the Seasons set. Slayer isn't interested in reinvention, you know exactly what you're going to get when you see them. Both Slayer and Megadeath have incredibly proficient musicians, but whereas Megadeth prefer laser-like focus, Slayer employs the carpet bombing technique and destroys everything in its wake. There is no letup; no power ballad; no beer break. If a song slows down, it’s only to signal an even more punishing assault is headed your way.

Kerry King doesn’t just headbang, he bodybangs. It’s in even more contrast now due to Araya’s surgery.  Tom no longer headbangs. His vocals are still strong, and he wisely leaves out screams that started to sour on him in the early 2000s, but while a fury of death and destruction occurs around him, he’s left to just smile at the crowd. It’s a little strange. Slayer isn’t supposed to smile.

The "Seasons" set wrapped up, the band left the stage and the opening strains of "South of Heaven" boomed down from above.

The intensity on the floor was turned up about 15 notches when the next song kicked in.

"Raining Blood" sent the crowd into an even more frenzied state, and led directly into "Aggressive Perfector" which blew my mind and while the crowd was “into it” there were obviously a lot of fans who had never heard the song.

"Dude, I think they’re doing a punk cover or something!"


Anyway, it was time to annihilate all surviving victims with "Angel of Death" which is quite possibly the most perfect thrash song in the existence of music. It was at this point, during the break when THAT RIFF plays in the song when the circle pit engulfed the entire width of the arena. Beautiful.

The song ends. Tom Araya says "thanks" and shows some appreciation, while Dave Lombardo engages in genuine interaction. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are long gone. The combo of the crowd and performance easily made this one of the best Slayer shows I’ve seen in the past decade. Looking forward to seeing them again this fall when Anthrax replaces Testament in the lineup.

Please excuse this review for lacking the usual insight and wit. I had to throw it together quickly because I'm leaving for a flight in four hours. (Hangover) Hell Awaits.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Live Review: Stone Temple Pilots at Riviera Theater, Chicago 2010

Stone Temple Pilots | TAB

Riviera Theater - Chicago, IL
March 27, 2010

Dead and Bloated

I can't quite put my finger on why I never considered Stone Temple Pilots a great band. I know many of the songs, and even though it's more mainstream than my usual tastes, I can appreciate that they made good songs. I enjoyed Core when it came out, but they kept straying from rock and more into pop rock. It probably didn't help that many of my friends wrote them off as posers, trying to glom onto the alt-rock movement.

Scanning my ticket collection, I see that I first saw STP on 8.02.92 at The World on the Lollapalooza tour. Do you want to know why current-day Lolla sucks ass, besides the hipster trash who infect my lakefront each summer? It's the line up. Let's take a glance at some of the bands on the lineup back in '92: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Cypress Hill, Body Count, STP and Rage Against The Machine.  All in one day.  Kids today just don't know...

RHCP sucked, btw. God, do I hate that band.  Pearl Jam was humbled by their opening the mainstage, so Eddie actually spoke to the fans, this was before his mid-90s, too cool for the room attitude. Hometown heroes Ministry owned the mainstage. Nobody matched their energy and scary, out of control behavior. The only downside to their performance was that it wasn't as good as seeing them at say, the Metro -- where they'd have no security and only a chainlink fence from the floor to the ceiling in front of the stage that you could climb and then jump back into the crowd. Kids today just don't know...

But this isn't about reminiscing like an old guy in a rocking chair, this is about STP.  Back on that summer day, STP were like a fine tuned machine. Scott Weiland was/is an incredible frontman, a eclectic mix of Jagger and Axl Rose. His vocals were equally as impressive as his showmanship. They played a short set but it was fierce. I saw them on some package tour in 2000 (I think) and despite his rail thin frame and constant bouts with heroin, he still "brought it" on stage.

Fast forward to 2010, where STP has now reunited and a generous offer of free tickets allowed me to check out the band. The crowd was about what you'd expect considering STP's departure from hard rock and becoming more of a poppy band. So while that makes for an attractive crowd, it also makes for people who do absolutely nothing but stand there and stare. There's no movement, no energy, no excitement. Why not just stay home and stare at your iPod?  Upon entering the venue we saw large signs informing us that VH1 was there recording the concert for a future show. While hanging out at the bar, the openers went on.  They were TAB the band.  The bassist/singer and guitarist are Joe Perry's kids. That's the only reason why they had this spot. Fuck them, the band sucks.

While waiting, and trying to get more and more drunk in an effort to enjoy this concert, word spread that the band had walked off stage the previous night when Scott Weiland didn't just forget the lyrics during "Dead and Bloated," but began to sing some fucked up shit that made no sense.  I'd link the video, but Warner Music has been successful in having it taken down every time it's uploaded on YouTube. My hope was that a similar meltdown would occur tonight. 

Alas, it wasn't to be... The band came on early.  Weiland walked out wearing a Snuggie and had a little kid underneath. Kinda seemed a little Michael Jackson-ish to me. The first three songs were admittedly well performed. Weiland is compelling to watch, but the vocals these days are just brutal. At times he's off key, but mostly it's like he just doesn't give a fuck anymore. He goes through the motions and while the band sounds good, it's so empty and hollow.  That's not what live music is about. I want to see energy, emotion and a thrill in your eyes when you play YOUR songs.  And I have to say that I'm miserable at a concert when I'm stuck in the back...when I saw how mellow the crowd was, I easily made my way towards the front. Thinking, hoping, wishing that being close to "action" would make it more enjoyable.  No such luck.


Weiland fell three times during the show, and also ate spaghetti (WTF?) between songs. The new songs completely suck, and he was badly off key during one of them. "Plush" got all fucked up at the end when he forgot lyrics. Meh. He just doesn't have the hunger anymore. He's tepid on stage and at times has a deer in the headlights look to him. At no point did I ever get the feeling that this was being done for the love of the music. Instead, this is just a cash grab and attempt to pad the retirement fund.

You know what Saturday's show reminded me of? The really hot girl, who is stereotypically pretty but when you attempt to have a conversation with her, it's just vapid nothingness. Looks great, is a way to waste some time, isn't offensive, but you walk away with complete indifference.  That's what it's like to see STP in 2010.