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.

No comments:

Post a Comment