Monday, April 25, 2011

The Big 4

The Big 4
Metallica / Slayer / Megadeth / Anthrax
Empire Polo Grounds, Indio, California
April 23, 2011

Yes, Umlaut attended The Big 4. Yes, I had All Access. Unfortunately, I'm not sure when I'll have time to post a complete rant about it here... Long story short, I've committed to covering the event for a "real" publication and I shouldn't post the Umlaut version of events until after that piece is published. Plus, I'm leaving for a long overdue vacation very soon...

All I will say right now is that The Big 4 was an EPIC day and it made this jaded Old Metalhead believe again. Man, around 50,000 Metalheads gathered in the desert for this show; no bullshit 2nd rate bands filling the day and no bullshit 2nd stages. It was just 4 classic Metal bands; all killer and no filler! The Old Metal vibe in the crowd and everywhere else was so intense I almost couldn't stand it; I realized this is what European Metal Fests feel like. I thought all of the bands were great in their own ways, but Slayer's set was incredible on many levels.

First of all, seeing my old friend Gary Holt filling in for the ailing Jeff Hanneman was mindblowing... especially since Gary was a complete Rock Star on the big stage and nailed it. When Gary did the solo in 'The Antichrist' it was Ruthie's Inn coming full circle into the 21st Century. Dude, Slayer also played 'Black Magic'... and watching 'Seasons In The Abyss' performed in the desert was perfect. Also, watching Slayer from stage right as they charged into 'World Painted Blood' to the roar of 50,000 Metalheads will be one of my top moments of the year... and to those jaded Metalheads who dismiss the new Slayer songs I want to say that I could hear the crowd singing along to 'World Painted Blood' and 'Hate Worldwide' (the opening songs of the set) from the stage! 'Nuff said.

Araya and Holt prepare to destroy all..
(Photo by Umlaut)

However, one of THE best concert moments of my entire life happened at the end of Slayer's set: The stage lights were off and the intro to 'South Of Heaven' started... and then the stage lights came on and it was fucking JEFF HANNEMAN onstage for the first time in 6 months!! THE most METAL thing was Hanneman was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt with the right sleeve cut off to show his heavily scarred and damaged arm. WOW.

(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

It was one of the best Slayer sets I've ever seen. Jeff was obviously rusty onstage after so much time being sick and recovering, but then about half way through 'Angel Of Death' he stepped to the front of the stage and got into *that* trademark Hanneman stance (legs spread, head down, blond hair flying).. and he was BACK! It was so fucking awesome.. At the end of the song Hanneman turned his guitar headstock down towards the stage and held it in front of him like an inverted cross while strangling the final note out of the instrument. . Dude, you never see the Slayer guys do Rock Star / Guitar God poses with their instruments like that onstage... but it was that kind of set.

I never thought I'd get emotional at a Slayer concert... but I almost got teary-eyed. SLAAAYEER LIVES! ! The ORIGINAL lineup lives! The coolest thing was how Slayer handled everything: There was never an announcement about Gary being on guitar or introducing Jeff back onstage. Slayer always presents themselves as a single entity: SLAYER. No bullshit.

Slayer's Big 4 setlist:
  • World Painted Blood
  • Hate Worldwide
  • War Ensemble
  • Postmortem
  • Raining Blood
  • Black Magic
  • Dead Skin Mask
  • Americon
  • Silent Scream
  • The Antichrist
  • Seasons in the Abyss
  • Payback
  • Snuff
  • South of Heaven (with Hanneman)
  • Angel of Death (with Hanneman)
To be honest, we had seen Hanneman backstage earlier in the day and had been tipped off he was going to be playing 2 songs... but when it went down it was WAY beyond what I thought it was going to be like. Slayer was just one of the moments during Big 4 that made this jaded Old Metalhead believe again.

All Access Laminate... Slayer VIP Pass... Maps.. VIP Parking Pass..

Devo shirts = 1. Anyway, that's all I'm gonna post about my All Access Big 4 right now (sorry). On the way back to San Francisco, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.. which makes sense I guess. I'll hopefully post a more complete rant about the EPIC day in the near future.

"Curse... Black Magic night.." Click HERE to see Photo Ray's SLAAAYEER shots from the day!

Anthrax appeases the Metal Masses..
(Photo by Umlaut)