Friday, December 7, 2001 @ 4:03 PM
Slayer Live At The Universal A
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Somehow, someway, after all these years of being fan, I had never seen Slayer in concert…until last night. Every time that they’ve come through town over the last decade or so they’ve either been on some big package tour that I didn’t wanna have to sit through for 10 hours or I’ve been outta town or busy. And as a kid I could only listen to them in the safety of my own bedroom, as I couldn’t imagine what kind of danger and mayhem could possibly result in exposure to their music in public to mass quantities of unstable, inebriated impressionable youths. Tales of riots, picketing and pictures of the band members bent over naked, butchered ladies with bloody cross-knives didn’t help either. I’d been to MANY a metal show as a teen but a Slayer gig always seemed more like a mass execution and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that… But that’s when I was kid. Since it’s just been bad luck scheduling conflicts, I swear….
So needless to say, when I scored some tickets for Slayer at the Universal Amphitheater and was neither scared (I told you, I’m a big boy now, ya fucker!) nor previously engaged, I leapt at the opportunity to throw on my studded leather wristband and pump my fist to some choice speed metal by the kings of all that is heavy. I hooked up with KNAC.COM’s own video guru Paul Harb (the guy who took a rubber bullet in the chest for KNAC.COM when Rage Against The Machine played the DNC, remember?), a veteran of many Slayer concerts over the last 20 years, and we jumped in the car and headed to the terrordome that is the Universal City Walk.
American Head Charge and Chimaira were opening the show so we wanted to get there early, however, by the time we waited in line for the parking lot, slowly drove our way up the creepy concrete multi-level parking structure and landed a space in Curious George 3R section, and made our way through the teaming, steaming throngs of tourists, patrons and culture hocked freaks, we missed Chimaira’s short opening set. No sweat, we’ll just saunter on in and catch Am Head, right? Right…..not so easy.
The pit surged, bodies flailed, limps and torsos twisted, and fists pumped in the air. Yes, folks, Slayer was in town and they were hitting L.A. like the long-predicted tidal wave that is said to lay waste to our fair city years from now.
We made our way through the roped dividers to wait in line at the metal detectors when I hear some guy make a crack about having to take off his studded wristband. I chuckled for a second before realizing that I too have a metal spiked leather wristband and a studded belt! Fuck!!! I take off my belt and hand it to an elderly female security agent who says, “I dunno, this is pretty sharp…” before being interrupted by a younger Latina gal who chimes in, “Naw, they’re not sharp, he’s fine.” Yes!!!! So I begin to walk through the pillars of doom, hoping that my wristband set the alarm off, when, as I feared, the buzzers lit up like a barbequed bunny on Easter Sunday and the old hag calls security, who bum rush little ol’ me. The Universal soldiers told me I had to go back and take all that shit to my car. I’m like, “Dude this is a SLAYER show, whadaya expect!!!! I’ve worn that belt to every concert for the last four years and never once been told to remove it.” They didn’t seem to care. Fuckers.
So I walked my sorry ass all the way back to Curious George and put the friggin’ belt and bracelet back, all the while remembering the first time I ever went to a metal show when I was 12 years old -- Motley Crue at the Santa Monica Civic in ’83 right before Shout at the Devil Came Out. I wanted to dress “heavy metal” but didn’t know that head shops and record stores sold that stuff, so I went to the hardware store and bought and bunch of chains and safety pinned ‘em to my shirts, jeans, and jacket. I waltzed up to security at the Civic like I was the coolest kid there and was promptly laughed at and told to go back to the car and put all my “metal” away. This was ’83 all over again.
Sample conversation between Paul and I on the way to the car:
Frank: That sucks, man! I can’t believe they didn’t even post a sign or anything! Those bastards! How was I to know????
Paul: Well, actually, there was a sign…
Frank: What? There was? Oh…Well, it should specifically said that you couldn’t wear spiked belts or wristbands…
Paul: Um, I think it actually did say that…
Frank: Dude, why don’t you relax and shut the fuck up….
Needless to say, by the time got back from the Monkey Lot I had missed most of American Head Charge’s set. What I saw was loud and proud and pretty damn crushing. They didn’t burn any flag or anything (unless that was earlier in the set) but they were full of energy and rocked the crowd pretty “reigned” on. I hit the bar.
Ran into The Rack between sets, looking fine as always. Saw Norwood from Fishbone holding court, double-fisted with some overflowing cups of Coors. Slammed down a coupla jack and cokes and snagged some free backstage beers. Mainly I saw a lot of hardcore headbangers, earth dogs and metal merchants primed and ready to be beaten with blinding speed…and loads of KNAC.COM t-shirts. Many of them on hot chicks. Sweet justice. And then the lights went down….
As the intro tape blasted, the crowd raised their lighters and a sinister wave of darkness swept the arena, and I’m not talking about the lights either. Suddenly things started feeling…well…evil. Glowing red letters on a concrete chapel-looking set read “God Hates Us All,” a cryptic observation no matter how ya slice it and the title of their new album -- and right then, at that second, it sure felt like he did.
The band hit hard with the opening battering of “God Send Death” and proceeded to decimate the crowd. The pit surged, bodies flailed, limps and torsos twisted, and fists pumped in the air. Yes, folks, Slayer was in town and they were hitting L.A. like the long-predicted tidal wave that is said to lay waste to our fair city years from now.
Yes, nazis, bloodshed, war, rage, torture, disease and murder, these are the things of which Slayer sing about and it’s all even more over the top when delivered in the live setting, in your face and in person.
A rash of new and vintage material was rammed down our collective throats for a little less than two hours and we were treated to such Slay-tanic staples as “Stain Of Mind,” “Seasons In The Abyss,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Raining Blood,” “Hell Awaits,” and oh so many more. Newer songs such as “New Faith” and “Bloodline” were tight and fierce and played with much enthusiasm, while the classics were delivered with machine-like accuracy and power. When they hit into “War Ensemble” the joint just about exploded. The entire crowd surged with reckless glory and heads were banging themselves to a pulp. The heshers in front of me were leaping in their seats and moshing into each other, much to the chagrin of the older couple nervously standing next to them. It think the temperature in the room shot up like 20 degrees…
Towards the end of the set, Slayer launched into a selection of tunes from Haunting The Chapel and Show No mercy, including “Captor Of Sin,” "Chemical Warfare," and “Die By The Sword,” both of which received an overwhelming response from the crowd, who seemed to collectively lose its mind with every riff. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman traded dive-bomb leads and chugging riffs with ease and every tune felt like a sonic ass-wuppin’. If only the sound wasn’t so muddy. Many times you could barely make out Araya’s vocals and, sadly, Paul Bostaph’s kick drum frenzy was often lost in the mix. However, watching my companion (does that sound gay?) Paul Harb play air guitar to and “Die By The Sword” more then made up for any shortcomings in the mix. They wrapped thing up with a particularly nasty version of “Mandatory Suicide,” complete with Tom Araya screaming, “massacre on the frontline!!!” with bloodcurdling gusto. Or course the crowd wasn’t letting ‘em get away that easy and the band quickly reassembled for the grinding “South of Heaven” and the relentless fan favorite “Angel of Death.”
I was exhausted after such a bloody pummeling. The band was as tight as I’ve ever seen a four piece and executed every single number with surgical precision and maximum authority. Araya’s hair flew around like a windmill when he banged his head in that circular motion he’s famous for, while King and Hanneman looked appropriately grimacing and mea as they bobbed their necks in unison and stalked the stage like serial killers. Yes, nazis, bloodshed, war, rage, torture, disease and murder, these are the things of which Slayer sing about and it’s all even more over the top when delivered in the live setting, in your face and in person.
The Slayer concert experience is nothing short of complete sensory overload. The sights. The smells. The volume. The smoke. The power. The energy. The relentlessness. The evil….. Sure, there’s no real dynamics to speak of, no real stage presence beyond that of four killers on the lose, but there is just something awe-inspiring about the whole presentation and sheer magnitude of it all. Like The Ramones, AC/DC and Motorhead before them, Slayer is one of the few band who need not change with the tide, update their sound, employ much in the way of theatrics (beside an great lighting rig, which they had) or even slow down for more then about 10 seconds. Nope Slayer is perfect the way they are and we wouldn’t have it any other way.