Why would you want to piss off Dave Mustaine? The Megadeth front man doesn't seem like the proverbial shrinking violet. He's a pissed-off and generally irritable redhead who sings about crushing people's heads and not taking prisoners. So why would you want to rush his stage or give him the finger? The two and a half unsurprising hours at Verizon Wireless Theater last night more than echoed what the the Rocks Off News Team has seen for the past two years, as audience etiquette flies past general concert rowdiness and straight into WTF Station. If we don't stop reviewing metal shows soon, or at least take a breather, we may very well begin looking down on the whole genre. That's a very sad prospect, especially coming from someone who loves all things "punishing," "heavy" and "brutal." But half-full beers flung stageways and a few broken elbows aside, last night at Verizon brought forth everything you would want from a metal show. With an older bill like Exodus, Testament and Megadeth, three of first-wave thrash-metal's biggest names, gone would be the modern pretensions. All that was left all night was straight abandon and riffery. Gigs from older metal bands are infinitely more satisfying on a different level than the young short-haired bucks. There's something noble about 50-year-olds swinging their manes of hair nearly 30 years after their debut albums hit stores.
Testament has never wavered on its staunchly evil stance, even if lead singer Chuck Billy looks a tad ridiculous playing air guitar with his mike stand on every song. Dude, fire a guitarist and take lessons. It will save money on touring. Besides, one song you play air bass and another you play air guitar. At least it's not air drums or keyboard, right? "Curse Of The Legions Of Death" went back to their debut, and when the band stayed firmly in the 1987-1990 range people were manic. Anything after was spotty. "Into The Pit" and "Apocalyptic City" were superb live; the former was one of the closest things the band would have come to hardcore punk in its early history. This Megadeth tour serves to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Rust In Peace, a slow-burner or an album and not exactly the whip-crackers that Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? or even Countdown To Extinction were. But Rust is the band's most technically proficient album, even bordering on power-metal in some instances, and worthy of being played live in its entirety. First they had to get "She Wolf," "In My Darkest Hour" and "Skin Of My Teeth" out of the way.
Rust really is a live killer, bringing out the beasts in people. It's not an album rife with singles, more of a full-scale experience. Aftermath counted the same ten dudes constantly jumping back into the massive circle pit in the middle of the venue, with each lap becoming sweatier and in some instances more hobbled and bloody. It was around the halfway point that Mustaine got a little ruffled.
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The band seemed to be going through sound problems onstage. On some songs, Mustaine's vocals were heard to drop out, and he looked like he was fighting his guitar at one point. It's always a sign of technical prominence if you can have 20-second convo with a guitar tech while still playing your part of a song. This happened a few times, with the band leaving the stage for a minute at a clip to regroup. At one point a kid jumped onstage triumphantly from the pit - this pissed off Mustaine something awful, but didn't seem to rile bassist Dave Ellefson who was next to the teen. Mustaine ended up going on a diatribe relating the experience back to Dimebag Darrell's murder in 2004, which we can see the parallels to but fail to see how you can live your stage life in constant fear of death, especially with songs like "Headcrusher" and "Symphony of Destruction" following your vitriol. Maybe it's Mustaine's new pal, radio host Alex Jones, that is hastening this fateful feeling - who knows? The band closed with "Peace Sells," which will for us forever be the theme song for MTV News with Kurt Loder in the early '90s. Megadeth audiences have a special grime to them you don't see with other older established metal bands, bordering on the Juggaloesque. It's hard to pinpoint where the underdog mentality comes from, but it sure fuels any show, that's for sure. Guess you'd have to ask James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich.