The Jägermeister Music Tour: Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax in Baltimore

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, November 15, 2010 @ 2:48 PM

1st Mariner Arena

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Seeing the Jägermeister Music/American Carnage Continued/Clash of the Titans II/Big Three-Fourths Tour in Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena was sorta like a trip in the thrash metal WABAC Machine — with sorta being the operative word.

Flash back to 1991, when I got to see what was probably the biggest show of the Clash of the Titans tour — the last time Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax all played together in the states. New York’s massive Madison Square Garden was packed. Slayer and Megadeth killed. The crowd was fucking nuts — all but destroying the floor seats during Slayer’s set — and the rotating headliner slot gave Anthrax the chance to close what was to them a hometown gig. And a triumphant performance it was, including a rip-roaring version of "Bring The Noise" with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav. It was thrash metal at its most titanic — and it was awesome.

Fast forward to 2010 and the dingy 1st Mariner Arena most definitely is no Madison Square Garden — it’s more like a ‘70s style auditorium and easily half the size. Even so, the place was maybe half-full, and many in the crowd seemed more intent on snatching video clips with their IPhones to post on YouTube than digging the show.

Anthrax was relegated to opening the entire tour, Megadeth Daves Mustaine and Ellefson have found Jesus, Slayer’s Tom Araya has a steel plate in his neck and instead of Chuck and Flav, we had to endure the tiresome "dick jokes" and Jägermeister whoring of That Metal Show’s comic hack Jim Florentine. Not exactly the makings of a "magical" evening.

Yet what the show lacked in atmosphere and sense of electricity or danger, it made up for with what really counts — the music.

With Joey Belladonna back behind the mic, Anthrax were their former hyperactive selves during a 40-some minute set that stuck to the oldies. Nothing from the John Bush era, nor anything from the in-limbo Worship Music album, made an appearance. Instead, the band went all the way back to 1984’s Fistful of Metal for "Metal Thrashing Mad" and never ventured out of the ‘80s.

Belladonna was in fine voice as the band tore through the riff-tastic "A.I.R," "Antisocial" and "Madhouse." Though the hokey head dress did get trod out during "Indians," Anthrax were much more ballsy than cheesy and their short set left me wanting more — which often was not the case back in the day.

I’d already seen Megadeth’s Rust In Peace set last spring in D.C., when they went out with Testament and Exodus after the American Carnage Tour with Slayer was postponed because of Araya’s spinal surgery. And it was pretty underwhelming. But in Baltimore, it was like seeing a whole other band.

Where Mustaine was detached and distant and there seemed to be little chemistry with just returned bassist Dave Ellefson the first time, here Megadeth were lock-step tight, bristling with energy and thoroughly engaged. Mustaine seemed downright gracious and cordial, recalling the spring show at "some shithole" (actually The Ram’s Head) a few blocks away that ended abruptly when someone spilled beer on Megadeth’s soundboard — and the free makeup show they played the next night — with a laugh and even introducing the other band members this time.

Megadeth went right into Rust upon taking the stage and played it all the way through before moving on to other material, which included the comparatively tepid "Trust" and "A Tout Le Monde" and the lame "Headcrusher," but also the stellar "Symphony Of Destruction" and "Peace Sells." Mustaine and Chris Broderick absolutely dazzled with their guitar work, trading off one fleet, fluid solo after another with effortless ease, and showing the kind of teamwork that the band hasn’t had since Marty Friedman left.

Slayer capped the evening in typical Slayer fashion, steamrolling over everybody, even though their performance was uncharacteristically workman-like — there’s definitely a little something missing now that Araya can’t perform with his usual hair-twirling abandon — and guitarist Jeff Hanneman spent much of the set wandering in aimless, seemingly bored, circles. When they don’t bring their A game, Slayer still epitomize intensity and tonight was no different, thanks in large part to Dave Lombardo’s propulsive drumming and powerhouse classics like "War Ensemble," "Raining Blood" and, of course, "Angel of Death" that have a surging energy all their own.

After opening with the new "World Painted Blood" and "Hate Worldwide," Slayer settled into memory lane mode by running through 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss from top to bottom. Though things dragged a bit during "Expendable Youth" and "Temptation" — there’s a reason they’d never been played live before — "Skeletons of Society" was a crunchy treat and it was great to hear the epic title track once again.

As time was of the essence — Megadeth and Slayer played tight 70-minute sets — "Dead Skin Mask" was aired without the traditional "this is the story of a man named Ed ..." intro and "Spirit In Black," "Hallowed Point" and "Born Of Fire" had a little extra giddy-up, again with Lombardo leading the charge. The only real surprise was the rare appearance of "Aggressive Perfector" between "South Of Heaven" and "Raining Blood." It was a brief extra thrill, but a welcome one nonetheless.

As nostalgia trip, the Jägermeister Tour — at least the Baltimore show — was a bit of a letdown. But that had more to do with the atmosphere — and the fact that my initial Clash of the Titans experience way back when had been so amazing — than anything else. As an evening of balls-out thrash metal that left you with your ears ringing, a sore neck and the feeling that your ass had been given a good boot, it more than did the trick.

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