by Prairie "Oyster" Dog Prairie "Oyster" Dog
March 13, 2010

March 6 & 7
Big Four Building / Shaw Conference Center
Calgary, A.B / Edmonton, A.B

We arrived in Calgary to greet the thousands of fans waiting outside of the Big Four Building when doors were scheduled to open at 6:30 pm.  The line didn’t look like it was going anywhere so we ducked into the attached restaurant for some overpriced beer and lackluster eats.  By the time we had finished, 7:45 pm, the now ridiculously long line had finally started moving.

Once inside, I got a quick snapshot of how the night was going to transpire.  There seemed to be little to no security and I actually had to look for someone to rip my ticket (which she didn’t even look at).  Looking around, I could see only a sea of young, drunk metalheads and hear Exodus.  I’m mostly familiar with Bonded by Blood, so I wasn’t too disappointed to watch them from afar while waiting in line to piss.

While not a huge fan of Testament, I recognize their contribution to the world of thrash metal, so I decided now might as well be the show I give them my undivided attention.  I made my way to the left side of the stage (where I would remain for the remainder of the evening).  The crowd seemed to love their brand of brutal thrash.  I, however, could not take my eyes away from lead singer Chuck Billy.

Photo credit: Distortionplus

This seemingly intimidating figure, and icon in the world of thrash, has one of the strangest stage gimmicks I’ve ever seen.  Whenever he’s not singing from his Freddie Mercury-styled mic stand, he proceeds to air-guitar on said mic stand.  And this wasn’t for one part of one song.  It was every part of every song.  We’re not just talking strumming-styled air-guitaring—we’re talking solos, whammy bars, bent strings, dueling solos, bridges—you name it, he did it.  Glen Drover (former Megadeth guitarist) did not look amused by his antics at all.  In some perverse way, it was mesmerizing.  The whole thing was just so goofy I could not take my eyes away, and could not take the band seriously.

Megadeth, of course, would follow Testament.  I had been to six Mega shows prior and never witnessed a crowd as raucous as the one at the Big Four.  If the purpose of playing all of 1990’s Rust in Peace was to transport you twenty years prior, mission accomplished.  Besides the usual puking and throwing beer, some asshole set off a fire extinguisher right by the left side of the stage, causing everyone to stand around and wonder if we were being gassed.  It wasn’t poison, but it did suck.  If this was what was happening before the show, I had to wonder what would happen during the show.

After a long sound check, the stage set-up revealed a huge banner depicting the cover of Rust in Peace, along with “crates” filled with what one would assume are “warheads.”  The lights went out, and to my delight, Jello Biafra blared over the speakers sending out a public warning over top of Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath,” the same intro that had been used twenty years earlier.  The band proceeded to enter the stage one-by-one until Dave Mustaine, leader of the group for nearly thirty years, started the riff to 1988’s “Set the World Afire.”  And for the first time in years, Dave Ellefson, the band’s original bassist and most consistent member other than Mustaine, was present.  He didn’t miss a beat, and it was great to have Junior back.

And then chaos.  Usually at a metal show, those who want to get rowdy and mosh will go to the middle of the floor.  Not at this show.  Anyone wanting to stand and watch was subjected to the shoving usually reserved for the pit.  I seriously considered moving out of my usual spot to stand near the back during 1986’s “Wake Up Dead,” as I had long ago given that shit up.  Luckily things started to cool off midway through the performance of R.I.P.

Rust in Peace.  One of the greatest albums ever made (metal or not) was played in its entirety.  Starting with “Holy Wars… the Punishment Due” until the end of the record, they did not let up.  Hearing album cuts “Take No Prisoners” and “Five Magics” for the first time along with tried and true live staples like “Tornado of Souls” was a revelation.  The vocal levels were a bit out of whack and it was hard to hear Dave until “Poison Was the Cure,” another song previously never played until this tour, but after that it was smooth sailing.

From the first time I heard the song “Rust in Peace… Polaris,” I was obsessed.  The apocalyptic lyrics spoke to me at an important point in my life as a teenager when I was pissed off at the world and needed a way to vocalize my rage.  Along came a snarling maniac that seemed to feel the same way I did.  I can remember scribbling the lyrics in notebooks at school when I was supposed to be paying attention to Social Studies.  It may sound strange saying that I was feeling emotional when it was played, but as soon as Shawn Drover started playing the frantic drumbeat at the beginning of the song,

Photo credit: Distortionplus

I was transported to that much simpler time.  During the verses, Mustaine grabbed hold of the microphone and barked the words like a demented General about to launch a world scale attack: “High priest of holocaust / Fire from the sea / Nuclear winter spreading disease / The day of final conflict / All pay the price / The third world war rapes peace, takes life.”  Not exactly a walk in the park, but it felt exciting to be there in the flesh.

The band exited the stage for a brief break before Mustaine reemerged to tell an amusing story about a trip to Amsterdam.  At a museum he saw what would be come the inspiration for the lead single from 2009’s fantastic Endgame: the head crusher.  After instructing the crowd how to respond to “Death by the head crusher,” the band launched into the vicious track—one that would have fit nicely on R.I.P.

1997’s “Trust” seemed oddly out of place at such a throwback show, but it was forgivable if only for the two blondes that came and stood beside me and danced and grinded as if they were in a trendy nightclub hearing Weezy’s latest joint.  The contrast from the madness at the beginning of the show to the unnecessary hilarity next to me was pretty awesome.

The band ripped through Countdown to Extinction’s “Symphony of Destruction,” always a solid cut (if overplayed), and left the stage before the final encore.  Dave came out shirtless and I must say, the fucking guy looked like 1990 never ended.  The jokesters in Testament raided the stage and presented a cake to Chris Broderick [lead guitar] for his 40th birthday before “Peace Sells” was played like the showstopper it is.  The crowd chanted the classic rhetorical question, “Peace sells… but who’s buying?” as if they demanded an answer.

And just when I thought the show was done, they launched back into “…the Punishment Due” one last time, a perfect way to end a masterful show.

I collected my thoughts and remembered that my colleague and I were attending an autograph signing from Ellefson and Broderick.  We waited patiently, wondering what to say, when two figures showed up.  Except it wasn’t Ellefson and Broderick—it was Ellefson and Mustaine.  For whatever reason, the Daves would be doing the signing together—something I never I thought I would see.  Though the meet-and-greet was brief I managed to thank both of them for the show; I told

Photo credit: Distortionplus

Mustaine about my love for “Rust in Peace” to which he replied, “Well, good.  It might be the only time we ever play it again.”  Ellefson was a class act all the way.  He seemed gracious and actually stuck his hand out to shake mine.  I tried not to be star struck, but c’mon—I met a couple of my personal heroes.  Those moments only come so often.

“What,” I wondered, “is in store tomorrow?”

We decided to skip the opening bands and save our energy purely for Megadeth in Edmonton.  I can air-guitar at home—no need for another session.  The clan of misfits I was with arrived approximately two minutes before ‘Deth took the stage.  This time I stood in the front row in the shafty bleachers at Shaw Conference Center, and it turned out great.  Instead of having some jackass watching the entire show through a digital camera in front of me, I had full view of the entire stage while remaining relatively close.

This was the third time I’d seen Megadeth at Shaw—and though someone did get carried out on a stretcher midway through R.I.P.—everything (mostly) went off without a hitch.  The last time they came around someone hit Dave with a shoe, prompting him to leave the stage and nearly cancel the show.  Apparently some idiot threw a hat on stage, prompting Mustaine to say, “I have enough fucking hats already.  Stop throwing shit at the stage.”  Classy.

The set was exactly the same as the night prior, but that didn’t deter my enjoyment of the night.  Staples like “In My Darkest Hour” from So Far, So Good… So What! and “Hangar 18” were reliably superb.  Having full view of these songs, songs I’d seen many times before, allowed me to pay attention to onslaught of guitars and the masterful musicianship.  All the highs and lows felt more precise; I knew what to expect and that was almost comforting.  Comfort: something you don’t usually find at a Megadeth show.

I was really hoping for more songs from Endgame, and as always I love to see something from their seminal debut, Killing is my Business… and Business is Good!, but I guess this just wasn’t the tour.  No, these shows were a celebration of a landmark record that has stood the test of time.  I feel privileged I could see it live not once, but twice.  See you next time around, boys.

Set for both nights:

  1. Set the World Afire
  2. Wake Up Dead
  3. In My Darkest Hour
  4. Holy Wars… the Punishment Due
  5. Hangar 18
  6. Take No Prisoners
  7. Five Magics
  8. Lucretia
  9. Tornado of Souls
  10. Dawn Patrol
  11. Rust in Peace… Polaris
  12. Head Crusher
  13. Trust
  14. Symphony of Destruction
  15. Peace Sells/…the Punishment Due

Visit Megadeth online: megadeth.commyspace.com/megadeth

“Hanger 18″ – Big Four Building, Calgary, A.B

“Symphony of Destruction” – Big Four Building, Calgary, A.B

“Lucretia” (live)

Comments

4 Responses to “Renegade Rock Review Vol. 18: Megadeth w/ Testament & Exodus”

  1. Eddie LeBleu Eddie LeBleu says:

    I’ve never seen so many metalheads in one place in a long long time. During Testament there was quite a loyal group of headbangers thrashing out hardcore to some epic guitar solos and manic drums. I was in the pit for the first 6 songs of Megadeth and it was quite aggressive with ballcap wearing shorthaired chachi fucks. It was quite intense but the metal prevailed and kept me rocking for quite a while. Until I realized that the pit started to stink real bad and I was a bit outta shape to countine all night plus I needed to tie my shoelaces. Exiting the crowd is where I seen the old school metalhead Megadeth fans, it was awesome. Then I ran into my old school pal Jimmy Chambers who I haven’t seen in like 5 years, it really made my night awesome. Also, Edmonton got major props from Mustaine. 5 outta 5 metal horns from me.

  2. That prairie dog has it bang on,however I did miss the two hot blondes,should have stuck it out in the pit.

  3. The diverse crowd made the show for me. From the dudes in the lobby that instantly removed their shirts and started growling “Mustaine…” the second the lights went out. To the guy in a suit and tie singing every word.

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