The Big 4: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax – Wednesday, September 14th 2011, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

I’ve seen Anthrax (with Joey Belladonna on vocals), Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica on more than a few occasions (Anthrax as recently as two days before The Big 4 event), so seeing them all play live again wasn’t necessarily earth shattering, but seeing them all play TOGETHER live and in the flesh was certainly a teenage dream of mine come to life.

Much was made about the fact that the concert took place at Yankee Stadium, but I think the location of the performance was truly exciting for native New Yorkers and Yankees fans Anthrax (and I suppose for people who really love the Yankees and thrash metal) and it showed in their performance. Anthrax seems really rejuvenated as of late….like they are feeling truly lucky to be up there playing their classic Belladonna-era songs with him back on the mic. This is in stark contrast to when I saw them a few years back at the Nokia Theater (now Best Buy Theater) on their first reunion tour and they were a shell of their former selves going through the motions. Anthrax is back. I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the new album “Worship Music” yet (it is sitting at the top of my “To Listen To” pile next to my computer as I write this), but by all accounts it is a monster of a record and a killer comeback. I was a big, big fan of “Sound Of White Noise” and don’t necessarily dislike the other efforts with John Bush on vocals, but I am and always will be firmly in the Joey Belladonna camp (no disrespect to John Bush of course as I’m actually a huge Armored Saint fan and love his vocals), so to me hearing “Caught In A Mosh”, “Indians”, “Antisocial” and “Got The Time” with Joey singing them is the only way to go. Anthrax did not disappoint for their big hometown show and threw the gauntlet down for Megadeth to try and top them….

Megadeth far and away was the weakest performance of the evening. Rumors started swirling Monday that Megadeth was going to cancel or had cancelled their set, but low and behold they took the stage on Wednesday. Dave Mustaine apparently has a serious neck or shoulder injury that is going to require surgery and presumably played through some pain. Megadeth’s performance was technically sound, but the setlist was simply poor. “Trust” over “In My Darkest Hour”? “She-Wolf” over “Wake Up Dead”? No thanks MegaDave. They did slightly redeem themselves by closing with the one-two punch of “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” into “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”, but then again, that was to be expected from them and wasn’t exactly a surprise. The new single “Public Enemy No. 1” did sound pretty good, but mixed in with a weak setlist, it didn’t stand out as much as it could have.

SLAAAAAAAYYYYYYEEEERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What can I say about Slayer live that hasn’t already been said? If you like the band, then you know they are top notch performers who define the word “intensity”. If you haven’t seen them live and call yourself a fan, then what in the hell are you waiting for?!?! Slayer mixed up the old and new pretty well in their setlist (I personally have never met a Slayer song I didn’t like), so no complaints about hearing “Hate Worldwide” and “Black Magic” in the same set. Besides the fact that this was a, as always, stellar performance by Slayer, the only other thing to note is that Gary Holt of Exodus fame filled in for guitarist Jeff Hanneman while he continues to recover from a very serious infection on his arm caused by a spider bite. Having seen Slayer a bazillion times, I have to admit it was kind of funny to see someone on Jeff’s side of the stage actually MOVING around as Jeff isn’t much for strolling around while performing.

If you call yourself a heavy metal fan and haven’t seen Metallica live yet, then you are aren’t really a heavy metal fan. I’m exaggerating of course, but you are really missing out on one of the best live bands performing in any genre these days. Even people who hate every album since “…And Justice For All” or “The Black Album” really can’t complain about Metallica live (they simply have more bathroom breaks during the set than other fans). My buddy who had never seen Metallica live before and even refused to go see them last time they rolled through town for fear of having his youthful memories of the band he once loved “tainted” was flat out floored and in awe of their performance. Metallica could have played Yankee Stadium on their own because they are that big and their performance proved it. “Creeping Death” into “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is the only thing that could have quickly upstaged Slayer and Metallica knew it. You don’t walk out after Slayer and come with “Enter Sandman”. Oh no, you bring two back to back thrash metal classics and get the crowd firmly in your corner. My least favorite moment of the set was when they played “Fuel” as I’m not a fan of “Reload”, but even that is a minor complaint as the song is pretty fun in the live setting. “Ride The Lightning”, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”, “One”, “All Nightmare Long”, “Sad But True”, “Master Of Puppets” and “Blackened” were all stand outs in a flawlessly executed performance. As anyone who had been following the previous Big 4 shows knew, Metallica’s encore would involve a jam with all the bands performing a cover song. “Am I Evil” by Diamond Head was what I was expecting, but they threw a nice curve ball and instead did “Overkill” by Motorhead which was a fantastic choice (great song, great band). There were a ton of people running around on the stage and it was a bit chaotic and hard to keep track of, but awesome to see/hear nonetheless. Lars Ulrich let Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante take turns on his drums and Charlie Benante, especially, looked like a excited teenager. After the jam finished out, Metallica closed with “Battery” and their staple set closer “Seek And Destroy” which left everyone in attendance with huge grins on their faces. Words really don’t do justice for the experience that is Metallica live.

All in all, a great concert and glad to have been there to see it.

On a side note, I have a major bone to pick with Yankee Stadium. Not but 9 days before this concert, I went to a Yankees game and was purchasing beers for $7 or 8 dollars from the concession stands in non-souvenir cups. For this concert, the only option for beer they were offering was Yankees souvenir cups for $11. Now, I fully expect to be mugged by the cashiers at the concession stands at any sporting or concert event I attend, but $11 for 12 oz. of crappy watered down American beer is just despicable. I’m thinking of becoming a Red Sox fan out of spite.

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