Thrash metal legends Testament, Megadeth, and Slayer made a stop at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion on their “American Carnage” tour on Friday, August 20th. The tour unites three of the biggest names from the thrash metal genre and promised to take fans back in time to 1990, when two of the bands released major hit albums (Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace), and, as part of the show, the bands would be playing each album from start to finish.
It always feels good to be amongst one’s “people”, and for me (and countless others) there’s hardly a better way to do so than to attend a concert. While I’d had a stressful week, a pounding headache, and was all but ready to go to bed after leaving work that day, as soon as I got to the venue and saw the legion of my fellow metalheads standing outside I immediately felt energized and was ready for the show. Seeing any one of the three bands performing that night on their own would have been great, but getting to see Testament, Megadeth, and Slayer play together on the American Carnage tour was going to be more than worth the price of admission. Anticipation was high amongst all of the concertgoers, and this show was sure to be a great way to begin the weekend.
Even the event crew helped in setting the mood for the show. Nobody wants to go a metal show and be stuck listening to Madonna or Prince while he or she is waiting to see one of their favorite artists take the stage, but the crew at UIC that night did it right. Prior to the show, they played selections from Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Pantera, and as the night went on they switched over to all AC/DC, probably owing to the fact that by the time the second intermission rolled around, most of the concertgoers probably had been deafened enough that AC/DC was one of the few bands loud enough that everyone could still hear.
Testament took the stage just before the advertised 7PM start time, and started right into a blistering set with songs from their latest release (2008’s The Formation of Damnation) as well as some tried-and-true band classics such as “Practice What You Preach”, “The New Order”, and “Into the Pit”. Lead singer Chuck Billy did his part to energize the hungry crowd, acting as the conductor to the mosh-pit symphony that erupted in the middle of the floor. While on paper Testament is a band that should be well past their glory days, they looked and sounded every bit as good as they did two decades ago, especially with their resident guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick back in the lineup. Along with Skolnick, guitarist Eric Peterson, bassist Greg Christian, and drummer Dave Lombardo played a flawless set. While they only played for just over forty minutes, Testament more than did their part to whip the crowd into a frenzy for the two bands that would follow shortly.
Between sets, I took some time to look around the crowd and see how varied it truly was. Music fans in general, and metal fans specifically, tend to be a very loyal, die-hard sect of society. People of all ages and all walks of life were there that night to see the show, from aging metalheads with their children to young teenagers there to see the bands, perhaps for the first time. And while most of the audience was wearing the standard-issue “metal uniform” (black t-shirts with jeans), others were dressed as though they were headed for a night on the town, and still others obviously had come straight to the venue from work. Regardless of age, sex, or background, everyone there was full of energy, and as the guitar and drum techs tuned up on stage, the crowd’s anticipation grew to see the next band on the bill, Megadeth.
Of all of the classic thrash metal bands, Megadeth was one of the most politically outspoken, and the addition of a Jello Biafra spoken-word piece was a perfect introduction for the set. Following the intro, the band opened up with “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”, and then proceeded to play 1990’s Rust in Peace album straight through from start to finish. While the album is more than two decades old, the songs and the subject matter sound every bit as relevant today as they did at the end of the Cold-War era, and Megadeth played through the entire set with an almost militaristic precision. Seeing the two “Daves” back on stage together again (Singer/guitarist Mustaine and bassist Ellefson) was a treat for many fans, and guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover rounded out the lineup. After a brief break and set change, the band finished their hour-and-ten-minute set with newer selections “Trust”, “Headcrusher”, and “A Tout Le Monde”, before going back in time and concluding with “Symphony of Destruction” and the perennial classic “Peace Sells”.
During the second intermission, the crowd was noticeably more excited and in some cases seemed on the verge of a near riot. Testament and Megadeth had both played great shows, but there was one act left on the bill. Throughout the audience the ”SLAAAYEERRRRRR! chants erupted from every direction while the set-change took place. Yet again, the sounds of the guitar techs on stage signaled that the band would soon take the stage, and the drop-tuning on the instruments that reverberated throughout the venue created an eerie feel that matched the dark subject matter of Slayer’s music.
The house lights went down at about 9:40PM, and Slayer took the stage behind a curtain with band logos projected on it. The band began their set with a deafening roar, starting with two tracks from their most recent album (the title track “World Painted Blood” and “Hate Worldwide”) before diving straight into their setlist from 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. If Megadeth was a surgeon’s scalpel, then Slayer was a sledgehammer. Guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman seemed unstoppable, and along with drummer Dave Lombardo, they made the music pulse through the crowd like the shock wave from a bomb blast. Following the performance of the Seasons album, Slayer took a short break before finishing the evening with “South of Heaven”, “Raining Blood”, “Aggressive Perfector”, and “Angel of Death”. After a brief “good night” to the fans from singer/bassist Tom Araya, the band left the stage and the lights came on, signaling everyone that it was time to go home. While many fans (including me) would have spent another four hours there, it may have been almost too much to handle.
The last few years have been great for fans of heavy metal, with many acts that seemed past their prime returning to the forefront with terrific new albums, along with new tours, reunions, and other events that many of us thought that we might never have the opportunity to see again, or in many cases at all. While many of the bands in the genre have been touring and putting out albums for twenty or thirty years, they still play with the same energy and spirit of their more youthful days, and the American Carnage tour was no exception. Heavy metal has once again proven its staying power, and if the apocalypse ever does come, at least the cockroaches will have something good to listen to afterwards.
“The American Carnage Tour” – August 20, 2010 – UIC Pavilion, Chicago Illinois USA
For the Glory Of/More than Meets the Eye
Dog Faced Gods
The New Order
Practice What You Preach
Into the Pit
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
Three Days in Darkness
The Formation of Damnation
Jello Biafra “big brother” speech, set to “Black Sabbath”
Rust in Peace album
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due
Take No Prisoners
Poison Was the Cure
Tornado of Souls
Rust in Peace… Polaris
A Tout Le Monde
Symphony of Destruction
World Painted Blood
Seasons in the Abyss album
Spirit in Black
Dead Skin Mask
Skeletons of Society
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Angel of Death