Rusting in Peace March 24, 2010Posted by Matt in concerts, music.
Tags: concert, Dave Mustaine, Exodus, Megadeth, Memphis, Minglewood Hall, Rust in Peace, Testament
Last night I had the opportunity to witness live one of the greatest metal bands to ever grace a stage – Megadeth. The band itself was born back in the early 1980’s by Dave Mustaine, who had just been kicked out of another seminal metal band, Metallica. Mustaine has served as lead vocalist, guitarist, and principle songwriter for the band for over a quarter century, churning out some of the best metal riffs ever composed to go along with his trademark growl.
When I arrived at Minglewood Hall, one of Memphis’s newest and nicest venues, I was greeted by a long, long line. After waiting for a good 30 minutes and missing about half of the first opening band, Exodus, I finally made my way through the doors and into the building. The inner sanctum of Minglewood consists of two bars along opposing walls, a stage on one end, and a large floor for standing crowds. 1980’s thrash metal middleweights Exodus were blazing through a set of loud and aggressive songs I didn’t know, so I made my way closer to the stage, being careful to avoid the mosh pit at all costs. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the way I kept out of the masses of sweaty, sometimes shirtless, males pushing each other around while the music blasted out in front of them. I remembered 15 years ago when I attended that Pantera show (as well as many others) and how I would have been right in the middle of the melee. I guess age does bring some measure of wisdom after all.
I retreated to the bar and grabbed a drink after the band finished and while the crew for the next group, Testament, readied the stage. Testament is another thrash metal band whose genesis came about in the 1980’s, and, though I had heard of them before, I didn’t know much of anything about them. It turns out that last night they followed Megadeth’s lead and also took on one of their complete albums, Legacy, which in some circles is recognized as a classic. Their set lasted around 45 minutes and mainly consisted of machine gun guitar riffs and yelling, but I found it to be a pretty good precursor of what was to come. If I had known some of the songs it might have been even better, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.
By the time the stage was set for the main act of the night, Megadeth, the room had filled up nicely – I would guess that there were at least 1,000 people and the crowd may have even approached the 1,500 person capacity. There was an interesting mix of people, from young people looking at the enduring music before their time to older blue collar men with fond memories of their 1980’s teen years, some of whom were even parents bringing their own children along to see a band of their youth. I would estimate the crowd to have been about 75-80% male, creating a cloud of testosterone that enveloped the entire floor.
When Dave Mustaine appeared on the stage along with the other band members, which included another founding member, bassist David Ellefson, the first thing he did was to chide some parents in front of the stage for bringing their young children with them. He said, “Look, I wouldn’t let my kids be in this area and I don’t want them to get hurt,” so he took them over the wall separating the floor from the stage and placed them somewhere safer to view the show. Once that was out of the way, the band tore into their set, opening with a song that I was not as familiar with (“She-Wolf”) but which rocked the house. Dave and the band were in rare form, tearing through intricate and impossibly fast riffs while the crowd pushed and writhed before them. Soon we were one big, sweaty mass of human flesh, swaying about and banging head to the music. As the first song started, I noticed a small-statured guy a few yards away bump into the girlfriend of a big guy that looked as though he bench-pressed pickup trucks for a living. Naturally, the big guy didn’t take too kindly to this and, without saying much of anything (at least nothing that can be printed on here), he took the little guy down – right there in the middle of everyone. The fight was broken up almost as quickly as it was started, but I was sure to make a note to myself not to mess with anybody.
The band was unfazed, though, and rocked through two more tunes, the classic about the late Cliff Burton, “In My Darkest Hour,” and the killer opener of the Countdown to Extinction album, “Skin O’ My Teeth.” Once those were finished, Dave retreated to the side for a moment to take a drink of water, before again approaching the microphone. “Now,” he growled, his long red hair flowing about him like a lion’s mane, “it’s time to get down to business. Tonight we’re gonna play one of the greatest ****ing albums ever! Rust in Peace!” The crowd went crazy and soon the familiar opening riff of “Holy Wars…the Punishment Due” pummeled the crowd, whipping them into a frenzy. There is a good reason why this particular album is considered one of the must-have classics of the metal genre – every song is killer and the whole thing flows into one incredible masterpiece. I won’t go through every song they played, but below is a list of the nine tunes that make up the album. During its course the band didn’t stop for breaks or for much in the way of talking, they just rocked.
Holy Wars…The Punishment Due
Take No Prisoners
Foison was the Cure
Tornado of Souls
Rust In Peace…Polaris
As they finished the last notes of “Polaris,” the final song of the set, Dave stepped to mike again, “That’s it. Rust in peace,” and the band exited the area. Of course we knew that the concert wasn’t over yet, so the crowd continued to yell and scream, eventually settling on a cadence of “Meg-a-deth Meg-a-deth,” before the four band members again appeared from the back.
“Thank you,” Dave began, before launching into a story about some member (or perhaps a leader) of their fan club, who was dying and in hospice care. According to him, they had just found out before the show started. “I’d like to ask that you all join me in a moment of silence,” he said and he bowed his head. The crowd quieted a bit and then, when they saw that he wasn’t joking, the chattered died down to nothing and the crowd, with their long, sweaty hair and black leather, fell silent. But the tranquility didn’t last long, for you know that there always has to be somebody, some drunken idiot who breaks the ordained moment of remembrance.
“Megadeth rocksshh!” the unseen voice slurred out loud, above everyone.
A look of anger flashed across Mustaine’s face as he looked back at the crowd, the adoring fans from all around and, amid a string of unprintable profanities aimed at the loudmouth, he told everyone that they had his permission to punch the guy in the face.
“This next song’s dedicated to the ****** who said that. It’s called, “Skullcrusher.” Soon the band was again ripping through another number that led into the next one, which I also didn’t know as well, “Trust.” As the final heavy notes died away, Mustaine again stepped away for a drink, and as he stepped back into the spotlight, a familiar few choral notes blasted over the speakers and he ripped into the big, nasty, and well-known “Symphony of Destruction” opening riff. The crowd was tired, but still loud and boisterous and moving about, as they sang at top of their lungs, sweat-drenched and happy. Mustaine growled out the last refrains:
Just like the Pied Piper
Led rats through the streets
We dance like marionettes,
Swaying to the Symphony…
Swaying to the Symphony…
And the band walked off the stage.
But the recorded music over the loudspeakers that always marks the end of a concert had not yet started, nor had the lights come on, so we knew that the show was not over. Again the crowd yelled and screamed and stomped, “Meg-a-deth Meg-a-deth!” until the band walked out one last time.
“Thank you again,” Dave said before again retreating into the shadows on the side of the stage. This time Ellefson stepped to the forefront and began one of the most well-known bass riffs in metal history – the opener to the classic, “Peace Sells.”
As the guitars kicked in, Mustain again stepped up and began the question and answer lyrics that we all know so well, “What do you mean I don’t believe in God? / Talk to him every day. / What do you mean I don’t support your system? / I go to court when I have to,” and so forth, until he reached that well known chorus and everyone joined in, yelling as loud as their stretched to the limit vocal chords could handle.
If there’s a new way
I’ll be the first in line
But, it better work this time.
It was one of those transcendent moments in metal music, one in which everyone joins together as one entity in a show of defiance and angst, one that is both empowering and rebellious. And as the song progressed into the bridge refrain, “Peace sells, but who’s buyin’” it was obvious that this night was a special one indeed. At the end of the final encore selection, the band again broke into the final piece of “Holy Wars,” and Mustaine introduced the band, taking special care to point out the presence of longtime bandmate and sometimes enemy, Ellefson.
With a, “Thank you, Memphis,” he was gone. Hot, sweaty, tired, and nearly deaf, the rest of us made our way into the parking lot, excitedly and loudly talking (it’s hard to hear when your ears are ringing that badly over the show). It was a truly great experience.
You know, sometimes I think I’m getting too old for always wanting to go to concerts. I mean, I’m in my 30’s with small kids, a white collar office job and a house in the suburbs, but then experiences like this take place and I realize that there is far too much great music out there to quit now.
Maybe when I’m 40…..nahhh