Slayer, Megadeth in Camden, NJ

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 @ 3:18 PM

At the Susquehanna Center

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First off, while I love the Susquehanna Center as a venue, I have to start off with some hate for the folks running the facility. I cruised up from DC, and after a stop in Delaware timed my arrival to get there just as Testament was ending. Unfortunately, the signage on the highway up told concert goers to "USE EXIT 4 OR 5B". Deciding to avoid traffic, I opted for exit 5B, except for one problem. Once exiting there is no damned signage telling you how to get to the arena! If you've never had the pleasure of being lost in scenic downtown Camden, NJ it makes SouthEast DC look like Mayberry County. I then made the mistake of following Google Maps bad directions onto Exit 5A with similar results, and was damned close to giving up and heading home when I finally decided to try Exit 4, which finally paid off.

I didn't realize how late I was until I rolled up to hear "Tornado of Souls" coming from the venue, but thankfully I made it in in time for "Dawn Patrol" and "Rust in Peace...Polaris".At least the cash I shelled out to get up close for the General Admission pit seating wouldn't go to waste. The band took a break for a few minutes as a new set got rolled out for the rest. I usually spend the entire night in the pit whenever I see these bands (#4 for Megadeth, #9 for Slayer), but this night I wasn't feeling too hot & (mostly) stayed out. This was just as well, as I got to see some things I usually wouldn't notice at these guys' shows. My biggest knock on Megadeth in the past has been and average song selection & mix and lack of stage presence by Musatine. Maybe it was the fact that this was my first time seeing Megadeth a) this close up, b) being completely sober, and c) not fighting to keep from getting knocked off of my feet in the pit, but I've got to say Dave put on a damned good show!

The band came back out to "Trust", followed up with a new one called "Head Crusher", and then pulled out "A Tout Le Monde". This song surprised me, as I always thought that this was one of their weaker favorites. I never thought it was a bad song, and the novelty of Mustaine singing in French is cool, but I'm surprised Dave would have chosen this given all of the heavies that didn't get played tonight. Still, they played with a lot of energy, and Mustaine did something else that impressed me - He walked across the stage clapping at the crowd. At first I thought he was just trying to fire up the crowd, but it took me a minute to realize what he was doing. Dave was applauding us - it was nice to see someone as big as Mustaine show some genuine humility and appreciation for his fans. Dave also thanked the crowd and said something to the effect of, "We always love playing for the fans in Camden. You know by know that I'm not the kind of front man to say this unless you've earned it and you have." And we had no reason to doubt him. Megadeth went on to close with "Symphony of Destruction" and "Peace Sells..." and finished off with a short "Holy Wars " jam. Even though I missed half of the set this was the best performance I've seen from Megadeth. And this was only the second act...

The roadies set the stage for Slayer, and they came out by running the intro off of the new album with various Slayer imagery being projected onto a curtain crossing the stage. As "World Painted Blood" kicked in the curtain came down... mostly. It got caught at the end and the roadies had to charge out to bring it down, but it didn't slow the band down any. They were out in standard Slayer formation, Araya in front, Lombardo in back on the drums, Hanneman off to the left of the stage, and King to the right. I managed to find a spot by the stage about fifteen feet away from King. He and Araya had on some Slayer tees, while Hanneman was wearing his Raiders Tyrone Wheatley jersey. In fact, I realized when I got home that they were rocking the same gear that they were on Jimmy Fallon a few nights earlier. The only difference I noticed live was that King was wearing his trademark spiked arm band that he was missing on Fallon. And yes, the only reason I recorded the show was because these guys were on. The second song up was "Hate Worldwide", after which the band launched into the promised performance of "Seasons in the Abyss" from start to finish. Since this part of the set list is obvious I won't recap but throw out a few observations:

  • The road crew messed up something with Hanneman's guitar, as his solos were sounding muffled on the right side of the stage. I didn't venture over to his side because I didn't want to lose my spot.
  • I got to see the cool visual at the start of "South of Heaven" where they project crosses up to the top of the stage and slowly turn them upside down as the song kicks in.
  • Kerry King once said in an interview that he didn't know how other guitarists managed to play while looking up at the crowd because he wasn't a good enough player to do that. I've got to say that seeing him this close the man's fretwork was amazing, and that most guitarists would kill to be as "not good enough" as him.
  • This was also my first Slayer show where Araya didn't screw up any of the lyrics. That's not meant as a dig - I always got a kick out of how he would always blow the lyrics to some song once and only once every time I saw them.
  • Araya did seem to take more choruses off than I remember him doing in any previous shows. Hey, for as much energy as goes into a Slayer show I won't begrudge him a few breaks. Better this than having each band member go into a painfully boring solo so their singer can rest.
  • I always wondered how "Temptation" would come off live without Araya also doing his own backup vocals. It sounded kind of strange, but it worked. After they finished the "...Seasons" set, the band took a short break and came back playing "South...", with the opening chords always drawing a huge cheer from the crowd. They used the closing fadeout to segue into "Raining Blood," with Lombardo also doing some work on the cymbals to accompany the opening drumbeats. It gave a different vibe, but it worked. Even though I wasn't feeling well, when the guitars for RB kicked in I had to jump into the pit. Feeling crappy or not, I defy anyone reading this to hear RB performed live and not feel an overwhelming urge to inflict pain onto another human being.
Another staple of every Slayer show is them dusting off some deep cut from an early album. Given tonight's show I wouldn't have cared if they had passed on this, especially after hearing "Temptation" live for the first time. But that's not how these guys roll, and one of many reasons I keep coming back to their shows - "Aggressive Perfector!" Awesome choice, and one I never thought I'd hear live. Of course, the show can end only one way, with "Angel of Death." As the song ends and the band throws pics and sticks into the crowd, I made a hasty exit to get ahead of traffic before the long ride back to DC. Throughout the night I saw a lot of cool Slayer shirts, but saw the best one of the night on my way out. One dude had a simple black shirt with just some red text. Written in the old "Seasons in the Abyss" font are two simple words: "FUCKING SLAYER", just without the asterisks.

Fucking Slayer, indeed.

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