When it was announced late last year that Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax were playing some European festival shows together, American metal fans were at first left out in the cold, and then extremely psyched when it was announced that they would be broadcasting Tuesday’s show from Sofia, Bulgaria to movie theaters around the world. In fact, it must have sold well, since they announced they’re doing it again tonight. I attended the showing on Tuesday night, just hours after actual concert took place halfway around the world, and in short, if you couldn’t make it on Tuesday, GO!
The closest thing metal fans have to a shared experience right now is a probably via the Internet. So in and of itself, this was a pretty momentous event. Literally hundreds of movie theaters around the country showed the concert at the same time, so it was viewed by tens of thousands of people. Not on demand, not in a YouTube clip (although those exist), but a humongous four-hour shared event that was a communal experience for anyone that went. So Tuesday was an epic occasion for any metalhead, and almost worth the price of admission right there. My thoughts on the showing I attended after the jump.
So on to the show. The theater I saw it in (the Regal Union Square 14) is smack dab in the middle of Manhattan’s East Village. Although it had been announced the theater was sold out, there seemed to be a decent amount (maybe 20%) of empty seats. Once we got settled in with some popcorn (and maybe a flask of Jack – shhhh!), Anthrax kicked things off. Of all the bands, they definitely had the most to prove. They’ve been out of the spotlight for seven years now, Joey Belladonna definitely wasn’t their first choice for a singer (or third, or fifth or sixth for that matter), and to re-assert their claim as one of the Big Four, they’d have to impress.
At first, it didn’t seem like that was going to happen. I can’t speak for the other theaters, but ours treated Anthrax like the local opener at first. It seemed like the audience was used to going to movies and used to going to shows, and weren’t quite sure how to react to a hybrid of the two. However, the band were on point, Belladonna was able to hit some notes you wouldn’t necessarily expect him to at this point, and by the time they played “Indians,” some in the crowd started to sing along to the chorus. Right before the “war dance” part, they broke into “Heaven and Hell” and that seemed to break the ice, at least for our audience. Despite Belladonna making some goofy faces and Frank Bello looking a lot like William Murderface, Mission accomplished, Anthrax.
Dave Mustaine has been pretty excited about his new guitarist, Chris Broderick. It turns out that he’s got plenty to be excited about. With no offense to Anthrax, this was the first time there was real shredding going on, and Broderick is a great addition to the band. The weak link? Mustaine’s voice. Either he was having a bad night or the older material isn’t suited to his voice anymore. That said, jams like “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due,” “Hangar 18,” and “Peace Sells, But Who’s Buying?” actually had some in our theater standing up and headbanging.
One of the people I went to the showing with tried to guess the over/under on people yelling the above during the evening’s events while we were in line waiting for something to mix our hooch with. Just as he guessed 100, three kids came running across the lobby yelling it, bringing it up to five. Having just purchased the Slayer pinball app earlier that day, I thought I’d give it a spin as Slayer led off with “World Painted Blood.” When I looked up, I saw something gigantic and wearing black shin guards. It turned out it was Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who appears to have put on a few pounds. Wait, wasn’t it Tom Araya that was laid up following back surgery? Well yes, it was, and he didn’t move anywhere near as much as he did pre-surgery. After the occasional “Jeff is fat” jokes (“World Painted Fudge” and “Angel of Death By Chocolate” were our favorites, I got a text from a friend watching in another theater asking if Jeff just came from a baseball game.
Musically, Slayer was, well, Slayer. “South of Heaven,” “Raining Blood,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” and “Angel of Death” are part of metal’s DNA now, and the songs from World Painted Blood sound every bit as vital as the older stuff. it was during their set that the most headbanging and movement in the aisles occurred (I say ‘movement,’ because it’s not like there was actually moshing going on – even at its headbangiest, people still seemed to be respecting the fact that it was a movie theater). It was around this point that I realized that 20 years ago, if someone said ‘one day, you’ll pay $18 to go to a movie theater to see Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth’ play a show in Bulgaria,’ I would’ve told that person to shut the fuck up and pass the bong.
Y’know, four hours is a lot to ask of people to sit still in a movie theater, and it should be mentioned, there was no real intermission. However, right before Metallica came on, there was a few minute break in which members of all four bands shared their thoughts on the passing of a legend. That’s right, I’m talking about Gary Coleman Ronnie James Dio. Cliff Notes – he touched everyone’s life, Lars Ulrich still talks too much, and apparently, RJD liked marijuana a lot. Ronnie, no – smoking stunts your growth!
And now for the main event. Actually, there’s nothing that can be said about Metallica that hasn’t been said before. The most mainstream of the Big Four, they’re also one of the most documented. The least they could do was play an interesting set heavy on the classics, which they did for the most part. Opening up with the Ride the Lightning one-two combo of “Creeping Death” and “For Whom The Bell Tolls” set the tone for the rest of the set. And while they did play a few off 2008’s Death Magnetic, the new material fits in alongside the old without being too jarring. When a video glitch led to most of “Enter Sandman” being skipped over, there was some applause, and I can’t say I was too upset either.
Of course, I went into the showing knowing the big surprise for the encore, which was all four bands uniting for Metallica’s cover of Diamondhead’s “Am I Evil.” It was actually pretty awesome seeing Dave Mustaine hugging the Metallica dudes and joining them onstage for the first time since 1983 at L’Amour in Brooklyn. Sure, it might have been the metal version of a photo op, and who knows that kind of backstage wrangling it took to make it happen, but it was a little bit like Israel and Palestine sitting down for a beer at the Gaza Strip. Everyone looked like they were enjoying participating in a historic moment. However, the only Slayer member playing was Dave Lombardo. What gives, Jeff, Tom and Kerry? Too cool for school? Or were you trying to pull Jeff away from catering? The showing should have been over right after that, but Metallica played “Hit the Lights” and “Seek and Destroy” to cap their set. It would have been amazing to let Dave stay up on stage and play the two Kill ‘Em All-era songs that he’s obviously played before, but I might be asking too much.
As I stated earlier in the article, this was an awesome moment for metal. Not just for thirty-somethings to relive their teenage years, but for metal in general. 450 movie theaters across the country surrendering a screen in the name of metal is huge. And the shared experience of the whole thing can’t be understated. Sure, this will probably come out on DVD in a few months, and you can probably watch the whole thing shakily filmed from an iPhone on your computer. But if you haven’t gone to this yet, and appreciate any of these bands or metal in general, you should be buying a ticket now.