The crowd at the Megadeth/Slayer double-bill was mostly male unshaven tattooed sorts, so I fit right in. The few women around were wearing the latest-and-greatest fashions from Biker's Moll Weekly. Apparently black was this season's black.
The opening act (Double Dragon) did a workmanship job of warming the crowd up. Leading them on several drum-driven chants of MEGADETH! and SLAYER!!
Then came Megadeth, or as they are more rightly known, Dave Mustaine and three other guys. While Dave has a vocal capacity that spans the full range from A to B, he uses it with precision and devastating efficiency. Just like the Pied Piper, he led the crowd into a passionate pit. Peace may sell, but they crowd wasn't buying that. They were however eagerly lapping up all that he put out to tender. By the time Megadeth finished their scorcher of a set, the front of stage was a holy war indeed.
Slayer came on and the concert unfortunately descended into a true season in the abyss. The first song had sparing vocals but was the hardest wall of metal I have ever had the privelage to be assaulted by. Wrapping the crowd up in it's muscular arms just as one of guitart Kerry King's beloved pythons coils around a prey item. The drummer was hitting the frenetic pace that can only be fueled by enough red bull to give an elephant's heart a stop. After the first song, Tom Araya motioned for the crowd to be quiet and then informed everyone that his voice was shot and that there wasn't going to be much singing. The band then launched into a series of instrumentals. Not Spinal-Tapian free-form jazz, but rather something much heavier. However, in the absence of vocals, the pace could not be sustained and the band flagged.
The rapport with the crowd was also lost when there were complete blackouts between songs lasting a minute or longer as roadies wandered around with flashlights, perhaps looking for Tom's voice. Kerry may be able to sing as well as play guitar, but unlike walking and chewing gum, he can't do them at the same time. So the band brought on random people from backstage to sing. They did it in good spirit and while the crowd were positive about the attempt, none of them had the power of Tom in full-flight, when he has the voice of two mortals. The filler-attempt reminded me too-much of the movie Rock Star. I half expected one of the walk-ons to launch into a spirirted rendition of 'Stand up and shout' including the sustained vocal note. Slayer finished their set abruptly and without the obligatory encore.
One hopes Tom's voice hits its former glory and that this is not a harbinger of the tour to come. The show is worth going to for Megadeth alone though. Perhaps it should be re-billed as MegaDave!
Headlining one of this years ACL main stages, and firing this years opening volley to start the fest, a new band, Them Crooked Vultures opened the festival with a sold out pre-fest gig at Stubb's BarBQ last night.
Begun as a special project in 2005 by super-musician Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, the band played a handful of disparate gigs in the United States and Europe back in August, but the Stubb's stop is officially the very first stop on their very first American tour.
It is a wise man that attends one of Dave Grohls' side project bands live gigs with no pre-conceived notions. Much like his experimental Probot project, nothing about the sound of this band bears any relationship to either Foo Fighters or Nirvana. In fact it probably derives more of it's sound from 60's classic "heavy" bands such as Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly than anything produced in the last 20 years.
With the legendary John Paul Jones of Led Zepplelin on the bass and the keyboard, the bands direction was probably inevitable, and yet there was a twinge of frenetic "Jack White" experimentalism which when layered with that deep late 60's blues rock, creates a melange different from anything else you'll hear today. With the off key vocals of Queens of The Stone Age's Josh Homme highlighting and accentuating the esoteric nature of the music, these songs wouldn't sound out of place in 1968 London. I think they need to ask Blue Cheer to open for them. THAT would be a great double bill.
But this is a chimera, a once in a lifetime chance to see these musicians play together, something that after this tour is never likely to happen again. With the tour selling out in record time few people will get the opportunity. Luckily for all of us, they taped a set for the Austin City Limits TV show on PBS Thursday. Look for it to be aired sometime in early 2010. Click here to check out the rest of the pics. photos by Jeff Barringer - Staff Photographer