Saturday, November 16, 2013

Live Review: Slayer at Aragon Ballroom, Chicago 2013

Slayer | Gojira | 4ARM

Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL
November 15, 2013

Hell Awaits

When this show was first announced, I thought it may be the first time I'd skip seeing Slayer since '85. There's no replacing Jeff, but I've already seen them with Gary; and if anyone is qualified to fill in for Jeff Hanneman, it's Gary Holt. Despite seeing them countless times with Paul, I had some reservations about seeing them without Dave. But then I figured life is too short to worry about band drama. Especially when friends on the left coast told me Slayer was playing with a new found intensity on this tour.

I first saw Slayer 28 years ago, and tonight's show marked the 28th I've seen them.
What this means, I have no idea.

We spent the entirety of 4ARM's set enjoying pre-metal beer at the Uptown Lounge, where Slayer was played loudly the entire time. But, having been a victim of Will Call Drama numerous times at Aragon, I decided we should head over a little early in case frantic texts/calls needed to be made.

Still Reigning
Thankfully, Will Call was a smooth process. I was surprised to see quite a few friends at the show, and I found out yet another friend was there when he sent me this photo from the band's dressing room..

Angel (food cake) of Death
We made our way upstairs to find a bar and hang out while French metal played on the stage below. The crowd was into them, but as much as I try, Je n'aime pas Gojira.

It was pretty sobering to watch Slayer's road crew take out Jeff's famous Heineken guitar and place it on a stand at stage right in tribute to their fallen brother. But I was pretty excited to see the band rip through the "Old School Set List" they're playing on this tour, and the crowd was equally amped up as soon as the lights went out and the intro to "Hell Awaits" kicked in. Nothing warms my heart as much as hearing today's youth loudly chant "SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER!" while waiting to be pummeled with volume.

I watched 90% of the show from the sanctuary of VIP Land, while KFK's wife and some transplanted New Yorker held court. As fun as that may have been, a Slayer show can only be appreciated from the pit. So I ventured down for two songs before deciding pits are for kids (and meth heads).

Best Part: When four pits merged into one weird oblong pit that coiled itself around the barricade.

Second Best Part: Watching the techs calmly play games on their iPhones while their bosses destroyed the crowd.

There's no need to dissect the show; it was FUN. The setlist RULED. No, "Angel of Death" won't be the same without Dave, and yes, it will always be strange to not see Hanneman there, but the band played flawlessly and Tom sounds better than he has in 15 years. The band dynamics have also changed, as I'm hard pressed to remember a time when Slayer looked like they were having fun on stage.

The energy and fun onstage was just as evident in the crowd. Say whatever you want, but 32 years later, Slayer remains just as relevant as ever. I don't recall any kids in the 80s/90s losing their shit over a band 30+ years old. And when Tom recited intros from the Live Undead album and the kids loudly said them word for word, it gave me hope for the future.

Satan isn't pleased: Aragon's stage could only accommodate two of Slayer's four upside down crosses.

I hadn't been back stage at Aragon since '93, during the final show Nirvana played in Chicago. Everything has been repainted and the furniture, while likely still sporting an unfathomable amount of DNA, has been immensely upgraded. The scene backstage was.... a scene. So it was cool to escape that and spend some quality time with the lead singer on his bus.

Sadly, no virgin blood was used as for the filling.

All in all, a blistering set from an amazing band. Anyone who skipped the show and/or tour is foolish for letting petty things prevent them from having a good time. In the not so distant future, Slayer and many others won't be around. Enjoy them while you still can.

The Brawlroom. Successfully Slayed.

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