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Megadeth Fights Off Glitches to Deliver Aggressive, Well-Balanced Set

Revention Music Center
February 21, 2016

It’s a standard bit of comedy in the concert world that the quickest way for a legacy band to ensure a bolt for the beer and bathroom lines is to announce from the stage, “And now, here’s something from our new record.”

However, metal fans — and in particular Megadeth fans — are more apt to keep up with a band’s current release. So it was a bit of a head-scratcher and truly a lost opportunity that the second date of the Dystopia world tour included only one measly track from the recently released record, arguably one of the strongest entries in their entire discography.

“Fatal Illusion” is a standout song, and the set list could have easily supported live debuts of “The Threat Is Real,” “Post American World,” “Death From Within” or the title track. It was somewhat disappointing.

Still, the current band — founder/vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine, longtime bassist David Ellefson, new guitarist Kiko Loureiro and drummer Chris Adler (on loan from Lamb of God) — did not disappoint overall with a powerful set that featured both better-known material and select deeper cuts from their 31-year career.

Opener and X-Files sound track candidate “Hanger 18” was an aggressive and forceful way to start things, with “Wake Up Dead,” “She-Wolf” and “Trust” also standing out.

A trio of cuts from the band’s “commercial” breakthrough record – Countdown to Extinction – delivered, especially “Sweating Bullets” (a crowd favorite) and “Symphony of Destruction,” which has become a hallowed anthem. “Tornado of Souls” and “Poison Was the Cure” — both off Rust In Peace — were less effective.

Mustaine and Loureiro shared lead licks all night, and the latter in particular seemed to be enjoying himself as the “new guy.” Much has been written about the deterioration in Mustaine’s voice in recent years to a straight gravelly, guttural growl. But Sunday, he showed far more range…when you could hear him. His vocal mike actually needed some boosting all night, as many lyrics were swallowed by the music.

The stage backdrop was designed as a large computer console, with two large video screens and four smaller ones below showing both graphics and film footage that illustrated or commented on each particular song. It was chaotic and effective, and buoyed the band’s performance rather than distracted from it (particularly during the drug cartel-baiting “Kingmaker,” the politician-starring “Symphony of Destruction” and historical leader-showcasing “Peace Sells”).

The screen also showcased some clips from movies that the band is mentioned in. As when Bradley Cooper’s character in Silver Linings Playbook is given an iPod by a friend that's stocked with Megadeth to help get his aggression out. And a scene from Wayne’s World 2 when a befuddled Dana-Carvey-as-Garth responds to Kim Basinger’s sexy ass dance by blurting out, “You got any Megadeth?” Schwing!

Mustaine momentarily baffled the audience when, immediately after the fourth song, he angrily said, “We’ll be back in a bit. There’s a problem,” and the band left the stage.

Apparently, an errant and out-of-his-element spotlight operator or operators drew his ire, and was (were?) replaced by the time the show resumed. But the stoppage didn’t seem to originate out of his ego.

“You deserve the best show possible, and I won’t stand for less,” Mustaine offered. “I mean, how hard is it to swing a light back and forth?” (and, to be honest, he was right about the missing spots).

Of course, Megadeth’s two biggest anthems — “Peace Sells” and “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” — have lost none of their strength and foreboding power since the ’80s. And their lyrics seem prescient and even more relevant today than when they were written.

During “Peace Sells,” band mascot Vic Rattlehead (or, at least, a very tall guy in the costume) came out to fist-pump the crowd. And the song itself has risen to a level of live mythology and crowd participation, the equivalent of hearing “Freebird” at a Skynyrd show or “Smoke on the Water” at Deep Purple.

Which brings us back to Dystopia. It’s a record released in a time when the real world today may have actually caught up with the band’s longtime grim-and-dim view of society, politics, war, government secrecy and religion. But as Mustaine recently told us, his bleak visions are more a warning of what might happen.

Finnish melodic death-metallers (yes, it could be an actual subgenre) Children of Bodom turned in a strong hourlong, mosh-pit-frenzy-inducing set. Singer/guitarist Alexi Laiho led the quintet with energy to burn (and the crowd in plenty of “Fucks!”), with “I Worship Chaos” and “Horns” being highlights. Keyboardist Janne Warman has an interesting-looking kit with his synthesizers angled down in front of him rather than flat. Havok performed before.

Personal Bias: Megadeth is my favorite of the “Big 4” by far for their lyrics and aggressive worldview. One of my earliest professional metal interviews was with Dave Ellefson for the Countdown to Extinction album release in 1992.

The Crowd: Mostly twenty- through fortysomethings, with a surprising number of couples. Heavily black T-shirted, with the band of choice being Megadeth by far (this show had the longest merch line of any I’ve been to). Other bands' shirts sported included Iron Maiden, KISS, Anthrax, Down, Deicide, Dimebag Darrell and — just to show that there’s no hard feelings — Metallica.

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Overheard In the Crowd: “Hey, there’s a girl in the mosh pit!” — from my concert date, "Metal" Manny Cruz

Random Notebook Dump: It’s more of a tribute to one guy. Dave Mustaine was not the hardest-working man in the room this night. It was the tall, bald, muscular Revention security guy standing below center stage facing the crowd. Throughout both sets, he steadily and securely received scores of crowd pit surfers dumped in the corridor between the crowd and stage with professionalism, courtesy and safety. And all the while, he gently lowered them to the ground before sending them on their way, even as he was always scanning ahead for the next fist-pumping (and possibly physically dangerous) deposit. I was fascinated watching him, and he even gave water to the crowd in between sets. Kudos to you for going above and beyond, Tall Ball Dude!

Hangar 18
Wake Up Dead
In My Darkest Hour
Tornado of Souls
Sweating Bullets
Dawn Patrol
Poison Was the Cure
Fatal Illusion
A Tout Le Monde
Skin O’ My Teeth
Peace Sells

Symphony of Destruction
Holy Wars…The Punishment Due

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