|» Megadeth 2010 03 13||
Dubbed the "Rust in Peace 20th Anniversary Tour," the 22-show jaunt across America has so many things going for it. For me, and I suspect many others, the biggest draw is the tour's namesake album being played in its entirety, a treat that undoubtedly has fans of Megadeth's back catalog frothing at the mouth. Bolstering this is the fact that the bill is high-caliber, old school thrash acts from top to bottom, who could all arguably headline their own tour. Finally, as an extra unplanned treat, the tour marks the return of original Megadeth bassist Dave "junior" Ellefson to the fold; appropriate, considering that Ellefson originally played bass on the Rust in Peace album.
My venue of choice was the Town Ballroom in Buffalo, New York -- one that I had never been to. The format, like most of the rest of the tour, was of the intimate club variety, which added even further to the aesthetic of hearkening back to tours of those days. The venue featured a separate reception area with a (much to my coat-less chagrin) coat check, its own bar in addition the one in the ballroom, and a projector showing a feed of the concernt. The layout itself was great, and afforded a good view from almost anywhere in the club, utilizing multiple tiered standing room areas all the way down to the pit section.
Exodus was up first on the bill. Having mostly listened to Bonded by Blood and a few of their newer songs, I didn't get into their set as much, only recognizing a few such as "A Lesson in Violence" and "Toxic Waltz." Their sound was fairly muddy, which seems par for the course for opening bands (though this should admittedly not be the case for veterans such as Exodus). It was interesting to see the drummer play an entirely left-handed kit, with the order of his toms and location of his cymbals mirrored compared to conventional layouts. Singer Rob Dukes brought a certain streetwise quality to his banter as a front man, urging the crowd to make a circle pit like "the old school days of thrash." He also mentioned that the band was releasing a sequel to their previous album in May, entitled The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit B: The Human Condition.
Testament was next. I was a little surprised at first to see that Alex Skolnick was not in his usual spot at lead guitar, but then remembered that TSO was touring in support of their latest release (which evidently takes precedence over his original, less profitable band). In his stead was Glen Drover, which was somewhat ironic considering the guitarist's prior position in Megadeth before current six-stringer Chris Broderick. Testament's sound was overall top notch, with a tight, clear drum sound, and articulate, heavy guitars. Chuck Billy was, as always, the consummate front man. Someone should really get that guy a mic. stand that looks like a real axe, because he sure does air guitar during non-vocal parts.
While Exodus and Testament put on great performances, it was obvious everyone was saving their energy for Megadeth. Starting off with some old-school classics like "Set the World Afire" and "Wake Up Dead," it was clear Megadeth was in top form, which should come as no surprise for a band attempting to play the technically challenging material of Rust in Peace. Three songs in, Dave Mustaine stops a second to say his first words to the crowd: "We know why we're all here..." and proceeds to launch into "Holy Wars..." Rust in Peace was then unleashed from start to finish, with only a small break for Mustaine to berate the sound technician for an initially sub par mix.
Throughout the entire set, the band was tight, keeping great time, and
rarely making any mistakes. The talented Chris Broderick matched the solos
of the album's original guitarist, Marty Friedman, almost note for note,
which is certainly no small feat. Performance-wise, Mustaine's vocals
were the weakest link, sounding like they were digitized through a pitch
shifter at worst, and poorly enunciated at best. As mentioned earlier,
the sound was initially muddy, especially compared to Testament's, but
was corrected later in the set by Dave Mustaine himself.
As a front man, I expected more charisma out of Dave Mustaine. There was very little banter between songs, and though some may find the non-stop, album-like execution of the songs preferable, I enjoy the interaction with the crowd from a good lead man, and found Dave to be a little robotic. In fact, outside of the aforementioned occurrences, the only other time he said much of anything was when he prefaced the song "Headcrusher" with an anecdote about the origin of its title while going through a medieval torture museum in Amsterdam.
As a small performance aside, I found two things interesting. The first was that Shawn Drover plays a "switch" style. That is, he plays a right-handed kit, but has his ride cymbal near his hi-hats and plays open-handed. I also found it ironic that Dave Mustaine is now playing a white, Explorer-like guitar from Dean, which I feel needs little elaboration...
From the choice of a bill consisting of bands from the prime era of Bay
Area thrash, to an intimate venue, to playing set lists consisting almost
entirely of the band's back catalogs, everything about this tour was fan
service. The mini-tour has restored some of my faith in the live music
scene and with the state of metal in general. Seeing Megadeth playing
so strongly off of the release of a great new album has really made me
believe it might be possible to carry some of the fire and chops a band
had in its halcyon days into their later career. I give kudos to all of
the bands on the bill and the management responsible for making it a reality,
even if it was a very limited tour. It was certainly one I would be kicking
myself for if I missed.