The Big 4 - No More!
The big metal news of this week was that Slayer played their final show. If you are new to metal, you should know that Slayer is regarded as one of the founders of thrash metal - along with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Collectively, they are referred to as "The Big 4."
When Slayer announced that they were retiring a few years ago, I realized that I had only seen one of those bands(Anthrax) live. As a metalhead, I felt it was my duty to fix that before it was too late. I admit that thrash was not my thing back in the late 80's when the Big 4 were hitting their stride. I did come around and appreciate not only what they did for metal but the roots that they laid.
2018 was going to be the year where I saw all of them live.
I started with the thrash band that I had already seen - Anthrax. They - along with Testament, Behemoth, and Lamb of God - were opening for Slayer. I knew that they brought a high energy show and this one was no different. Scott Ian and Frank Bello are always fun to watch because they never seem to stop moving and look just as happy to play now as they did 30+ years ago! If I had to pick my favorite of the Big 4, Anthrax would be it.
Next up was Slayer. I must admit that I am not a true Slayer fan but I do respect and enjoy what they bring to metal. From the beginning, the show was great with plenty of flames, projections, and lights. They played great and, while they were not as high energy as their openers, that has never been their thing. They just were there to deliver the metal and deliver it, they did!
Less than a week later, I was in Denmark for work. I had planned this trip knowing that Megadeth would be performing across the Øresund in Malmö, Sweden. The venue was only a 30 minute train ride away so it was definitely something that I could do after work. The one obstacle was that the show was sold out and I did not have a ticket.
From my years of concert-going, I knew that someone would be looking to get rid of at least one ticket the day of the show so I started to check online. My experience proved to be correct - I was able to acquire a ticket and go to the show. I really had no idea what to expect but was blown away by how good the show was. Everyone sounded great and their new guitar player - Kiko Loureiro - was amazing. I had heard that Dave Mustaine could get a bit salty in his stage banter and was not let down. Someone kept screaming that they were from Spain between songs and Dave finally said, "Yes, I get it, you're from Spain. Now can you shut up so we can play?" It was great to see him in such great spirits. I would have to say that this show was my next favorite, right behind Anthrax.
The final show was Metallica. I had been listening to them since the late 80s and had very high expectations. I had never seen them live and had only heard good things. Overall, the show was decent but it was not my favorite of the four. I never understood why everyone gave Lars Ulrich such a hard time about his drumming until I saw him live. The tempo he set was all over the place. As someone who has played in bands for years, I can attest that it is noticeable and distracting when the drummer slows down or speeds up for no reason. That was the case during this show and it really pulled me out of the moment of enjoying everything else. That is because, for the most part, everyone else played great and put on a great in-the-round performance. The one other thing that I think most of us would have liked to forget was Robert Trujillo's and Kirk Hammett's decision to cover Prince's "When Doves Cry." I do respect they they wanted to pay tribute but this version was a bit disappointing to me. Don't take my word for it - watch and decide for youself.
Overall, it was a great thing to be able to experience The Big 4 live and it was worth the effort. It also made me realize that the life of a metal band is precious. We don’t know how much longer the older bands will all be together or around, so it is so important to support them now. And for the newer bands, live performances are the best way to support them as they get started on what (hopefully) will be a long and successful career. It is so critical to take advantage of the opportunity when it is there instead of hoping it might come around