If it seemed like a gigantic party in Dallas Texas Friday night, part of the reason was the opening of the Texas State Fair, the other was the opening of the second leg of the American Carnage tour in the Superpages.com amphitheater next door.
With thrash metal gods Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax playing to a solid crowd, the tour kicked off with lots of sound and fury, helped by a flight of fighter jets making a low pass over the fair. Probably a good way to open Megadeth and Slayer, who last toured the U.S. together nineteen years ago on the "Clash of the Titans" tour.
I spent the weekend with the tour at the personal invite of Slayer's Kerry King, and had a huge time hanging out with the bands, talking with thrash metal legends, and seeing the underside of how such a huge spectacle works.
New York based Anthrax started off the festivities, though not without a few sound problems that were quickly resolved. Talking with Scott Ian the next night he attributed it to a feedback issue, and it didn't recur for the rest of the set or the next night in San Antonio. This Anthrax tour saw the return of Joey Belladonna as frontman who sang with the band last in 1992, taking over vocal duties again this year first at the Sonisphere Festival in Poland.
Chatting with Anthrax founder Scott Ian he said that Sonisphere was great and he can't wait to tour Europe again. I also got the lowdown on how the band came up with the name Anthrax and he confirmed that when they came up with it they hadn't even heard of Gang Of Four's song of the same name, and it was purely coincidence.
While waiting for Kerry to return from an interview I almost ran into Dave Mustaine and Megadeth backstage, literally, as he and the band returned for dinner and we both tried to go through the same stage door going different directions. Not that Dave and band are hard to miss with those golden locks leading the way but I was taken aback and kind of stunned into silence right there by his unexpected appearance and couldn't really think of anything to say that wouldn't leave me looking like a fawning teenager. That seems to happen when I connect with Kerry, as I had a similar doorway experience with Marilyn Manson a few years back.
Also fresh from Sonisphere, Megadeth is reprising its role on this rerun of the "Clash of the Titans" tour by playing their entire Rust In Peace album cover to cover. Released 20 years ago the album broke Billboard's Top 25 albums and spawned the songs "Hanger 18" and "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due". Rejoined by original bassist Dave Ellefson, Mustaine and crew tore through the album with a few extra songs for good measure. Megadeth fans at either show would have been pleased.
While I enjoyed both the Anthrax and Megadeth sets, I had really come to see Slayer, and though they were co-headliners Slayer ended each show. Riding the "Titans" theme they played the entire Seasons In The Abyss album as well as crowd favorites "Angel of Death", "South of Heaven", and "World Painted Blood", the title track of their latest disc.
Abyss is one of the few Slayer discs not in my collection, and thus not played over and over ad nauseum so it was good to hear some "new" old Slayer live, songs I'd mostly never seen performed before. Still I would have been lost without Tom's blood curdling scream in "Angel of Death" so I was glad they didn't limit their set.
Both the Friday set list in Dallas and Saturday set in San Antonio were the same, so it was interesting to compare and contrast the two. From a sound perspective I think that the Saturday show in San Antonio was just a hair tighter and cleaner, but if there was any difference in the performance it was marginal. From a photographers standpoint my Saturday shots were much better than my Friday pictures, something that I will attribute to the way they had the smoke generators firing across the footlights in Dallas.
The Dallas gig ended with Dave Lombardo coming out from behind his kit and tossing his drumsticks to the audience.
Kerry followed suit with handfuls of guitar picks, before offering a final Jaeger shot to the audience, and slamming one himself.
Back stage after the set in Dallas I only had a brief couple of minutes to congratulate Kerry on the set before I had to hit the road. He and I had talked several times throughout the day, but with the tour opening it was a busy day for him, interviews, meet & greets and the like. I did get to talk to him for 30 minutes or so before his set, long enough to draw down a Jaeger, catch up on his day, talk and talk snakes a bit. It was really Saturday I was looking forward too.
On Saturday I brought a couple kids with me, high school thrashers who spend their nights trying to pick their way through "Reign in Blood". For me Kerry is just another snake guy, a friend no doubt,and one with an interesting job I wouldn't have for anything, but to these kids he is a god, a legend. It was worth all the effort to see their faces when Kerry walked into the dressing room, followed by Scott Ian and Frank Bello of Anthrax. After the kids got over being awestruck Kerry asked them bout the bands they were listening too and what they were playing with genuine interest, which was really cool. After the photos and autographs Kerry, Scott, Frank and I talked for almost an hour about music, the tour, and Sonisphere until they came to pack up the room.