Not a typical concert review, but in case you missed The Big Four in concert last night …

The Big Four at SonisphereMetal may not be at the top of my list when it comes to music, but there are a handful of bands that I enjoy listening to and seeing live. Back in 1991 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix I saw the Clash of the Titans Tour. The show featured a very young Alice in Chains opening for Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. That concert still ranks in my Top 20 for all-time shows, with Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax delivering unbelievable performances. Imagine my surprise and delight when it was announced the three bands would be playing with the king of The Big Four (mind you, not in this writer’s opinion), Metallica. The Big Four were performing together for the first time ever as part of the Sonisphere Festival, and the June 22 concert was being telecast in movie theatres nationwide. No brainer, I had to go see this!

The Big Four (counterclockwise from the top left) - Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, MegadethFirst up was Anthrax. 19 years ago when I saw them the band put on the most energetic and fun performance of the evening. 19 years later and Anthrax claims that title again! Joey Belladonna is once again at the helm singing vocals for the band, and his vocal delivery was in my opinion the best of the night from the four bands. A short set was highlighted by a number of songs from their watershed 1987 release Among the Living, including the opener to the set Caught in a Mosh, Indians and the final song Anthrax played I Am the Law. Charlie Benante was a monster behind the drum kit and Scott Ian as always was a powerful stage presence. That insane buzzsaw style of metal guitar-work from Anthrax was evident on every song, and the crowd ate it up. A great start to the show!

Next up was Megadeth. If I had any doubts about seeing Megadeth in concert August 27 with Slayer at the Dodge Theatre, those thoughts were immediately dispelled once frontman/vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine launched into the first song. Hands down this was the most professional set of the concert, as was the case when I saw them last at Clash of the Titans. Mustaine is a GOD on the axe, putting together riffs during this show that had me absolutely awestruck. It was raining pretty heavy at the beginning of Megadeth’s set, which did hamper Mustaine’s vocal delivery a bit, but that did not detract from the music one iota. Playing many crowd favorites such as Hook in Mouth (this writer’s favorite Megadeth track), Symphony of Destruction, and an encore of the mind-blowing Peace Sells …, their set got the best response from the audience in the movie theatre, with loads of screaming, hollering and clapping, particularly after each incredible solo from Mustaine. Best of all, how great was it to see original bassist David Ellefson back where he belongs as Dave’s right hand man!

The show started at 7:30pm, it is now 9:05pm with the band I was most anticipating on this evening up next – SLAYER!

There are five bands I have seen that are capable of inciting a riot anytime they play: Black Flag; FEAR; TSOL; Rage Against the Machine and Slayer. Slayer is a rare case of a band that actually lives up to their dark image, with the result being a frightening menace onstage.

Slayer put on the most intense set when I saw them at Clash of the Titans. I can still remember sitting in my seat at the Coliseum and watching in “horror” as the crowd in the lower bowl of the arena rushed the floor during the opening notes of War Ensemble, creating a SECOND pit on the floor. Once again the band delivered the most intense show of the evening, and did so in typical Slayer fashion. Blitzkrieg dual lead guitar riffs from Kerry King (the coolest dude in metal) and Jeff Hanneman, the incredible vocal delivery and bass play of Tom Araya (my favorite metal vocalist), and the lightning fast percussion from Dave Lombardo (best drum performance of the night) are trademarks of the band that exemplify every performance. The crowd response both live at the concert and in the movie theatre were incredible, and naturally the highest level of moshing was during Slayer’s performance. The crowd was treated to tracks from the band’s entire catalog, with standouts including Chemical Warfare, the title track to Seasons in the Abyss and the track that very well may have put Slayer on everyone’s radar, the incredible Angel of Death from the greatest thrash metal album of all-time, Reign in Blood (once again, this writer’s opinion).

When Lombardo’s opening drum line for Raining Blood commenced, the crowd intensity both in Bulgaria and at AMC Westgate reached a fever pitch. For me, the delivery of this classic Slayer song, another Reign in Blood masterpiece, was the highlight of the night. This song is so intense live that it is hard not to suffer complete meltdown by the time it is over. Fittingly the song ended an incredible show. What a band!

After about a 5-10 minute tribute to recently deceased Ronnie James Dio, Metallica strode onstage. Damnit …

I REALLY liked Metallica through the Master of Puppets album. I enjoyed And Justice for All and most of The Black Album. Unfortunately, when Metallica became huge once The Black Album sold millions of copies, vocalist/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich allowed their egos to get out of control. Don’t get me wrong, I am really happy the band became a huge success. They worked hard and earned it.

In the past year or so I have changed my mind about artists and their music. I always used to say if I did not like an artist that they sucked. That really is an incorrect way of looking at things. An artist does not suck because yours truly does not like them. For example, just because I think Styx is absolutely rancid does not mean that millions of people are wrong. They have sold a lot of records over the years, so my opinion in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant.

I say that because for years I have thought Metallica is horrible. However, I went into this show with an open mind. I wanted to enjoy their performance.

NO DICE. It was exactly what I anticipated, an exercise in mindless excess with lots of rockstar posing from the two aforementioned culprits. It is sad to think they booted two members far superior in talent, Dave Mustaine and bassist Jason Newsted.

What solidified things for me was the back-to-back delivery of two of my favorite Metallica songs, One and Master of Puppets. I was furious by the time they had finished the butchering process of two incredibly intense songs. Next up was Nothing Else Matters, a track from The Black Album that in my opinion is indicative of the direction the band took that made them useless in my eyes. Time to go.

That was somewhere between the eighth and tenth song I believe, approximately one hour into their set. The concert movie was due to end around 11:30pm. I left early enough to make the 20 minute drive home and fold a load of laundry, all by 11:20pm.

Metallica, beyond disappointing, worthless actually. Considering there were a number of people who left earlier than me, and the fact there were some boos from the crowd at AMC Westgate when Ulrich was talking about Dio … I do not feel too bad about leaving when I did.

However, I can recommend without reservation the need to go see this concert! My understanding is The Big Four Concert will be re-telecast Thursday evening, June 24. Check out the link I have provided on several occasions during this post for ticket information. $18.00 is a good investment for three great bands, four if you like Metal Lick A.

If you go, enjoy. Cheers!
Frank

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8 comments

  1. A.J. · June 24, 2010

    Here’s my take of the evening. I thought the line-up should’ve been Anthrax as opener, Slayer, Megadeth, and then Metallica. Megadeth gave the most musical performance of the evening. Dave’s hard work and having put together an extremely solid line-up (especially with Junior back on board) have made Megadeth a hugely successful band once again. I loved how he didn’t waste any time and made the most of his hour or so.

    I thought Slayer was almost boring. I’m not sure whether Tom Araya was about to cry or fall asleep. I assume he wanted to be because of the nature of the event, but he didn’t seem like it through his actions, or lack thereof. I’ve seen Slayer in a much more intense state.

    Metallica’s set was scattered, but I think this is the happiest I’ve ever seen James. Lars is always going to have that rockstar attitude, but James was genuinely happy to be up there. If you think what he was doing was posing, go back and look at his stature during the Justice tour. That’s a stoic figure, if you ask me. Musically speaking, Lars was all over the place. I felt bad for Kirk because he had to keep up with that nasty tempo. I’m not going to get into the Kirk vs. Dave debate because it’s old, and I think they’re apples and oranges. This is the best I’ve seen Kirk play in a long, long, long time. Maybe he’s figured out that he can’t just count on being a rockstar – he has to keep working for it.

    Because you left, you didn’t get to see the most special moment of the evening. I was hoping to see Dave play some old songs he helped write with Metallica. However, they did play “Am I Evil?” which they all played when he was in Metallica. I wish all the lead guitarists would’ve played the little opening solo. Anyway, Dave sang, and I’m glad it looked like they were all glad to share the moment.

    I agree with you that the concert is welllll worth the price of admission. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and shouldn’t be missed.

  2. tfronky · June 24, 2010

    Hey A.J.,

    Thanks for the comments! I agree, I’ve seen Slayer more intense as well, but I still feel they smoked. Tom was smiling almost the whole show, so to me he really looked to be into things and enjoying himself.

    You are abolsuitely correct about Megadeth, blown away with their professionalism. A buddy of mine in a metal band here posted tghe same type of comment on his Facebook page.

    I read that about Metallica yesterday morning, still wouldn’t have convinced me to stay though. I was really diasppointed.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Bob Dean · June 25, 2010

    How could I possibly have missed that??????

  4. tfronky · June 25, 2010

    @Bob – I am still questioning why I approved an asinine, sarcastic comment like that …

  5. Pingback: July wasn’t the best concert month (seriously, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in one week?). August will be better for concerts in the Valley of the Sun! « The Musings of Frank Gallardo
  6. Matt · October 21, 2010

    Great review, Frank. Having just returned from the The Jägermeister Music Tour, I was amazed at what I saw on stage. Megadeth ripped through Rust In Peach like a freight train. Dave Mustaine was killer and the rest of the band sounded great. I’m not a huge Anthrax fan, but they definately put on a show. It was the first time I had ever seen Slayer and I can safely saw they are one of the best live acts in the business. Even my girlfriend, as casual metal head at best, was blown away.

    I saw Metallica a few years back and I wouldn’t blame you for leaving when you did. While they certainly put on a fan friendly show for the die-hards, they’ve become tired and boring. I understand that Metallica’s sucess has risen to greater heights than most bands would even dream of, but I actaully get offended as a metal fan when Metallica gets top billing over a band like Slayer.

    I still would’ve loved to have been there, but seeing the ‘Big 3’ this past weekend was just as good. I don’t think I wouldn’t stayed for Metallica, either.

    When they do the inevitable Big Four show in the states, the lineup should be as follows:

    Main Stage:
    Slayer (Headliners)
    Megadeth
    Anthrax

    *Second Stage:
    Metallica

    *for anyone who still gives a S!#T

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  8. ed · August 29, 2012

    This is my review of the Big 4 when I saw them in Yankee Stadium. Anthrax played very well but it seemed as though not many cared for them so they didn’t get as much attention and reaction from the crowd. It was upsetting. (they are the first band up) Megadeth was good and it seemed like a lot of people really got into it, When Slayer got on stage the only people that seemed to enjoy it was the two mosh pits on the floor. It was quite boring. Someone in front of me was sitting down and sent a text to his friend saying “Is it just me or did Slayer just play the same song 10 times in a row?” When The Ecstasy of Gold played the whole audience was filled with anticipation and happiness and so much energy it was absolutely breathtaking. The whole stadium got up and cheered and hollered and screamed and was just have a great time. I think that Metallica’s performance by far was the best. They put a lot of feeling into their set and the amount of energy that they gave off was absolutely amazing.

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