Friday, May 9, 2008

Megadeth and a killer lineup of bands brought the metal to Chicago and thrilled

One would think age might catch up to Dave Mustaine. At age 46, Mustaine put his first record out under the Megadeth moniker way back in 1985. 23 years later, he’s still going strong – he’s battled addiction on multiple occasions and also dealt with the skyrocketing success of his former band, Metallica. With a new album released last year, which many were calling their best, Megadeth stopped in Chicago tonight in support of said album as a part of Gigantour, the metal festival Mustaine started back in 2005.

On the bill this year were High On Fire, Job For A Cowboy, Children of Bodom, and In Flames. Of course, many were there for Megadeth; but Mustaine built a killer lineup this year which drew many non-Megadeth fans as well. While High on Fire kicked off the night with their thunderous stoner metal, Job For a Cowboy was about the equivalent of turgid crap being forced through the speakers at the crowd. Not only were some people sitting down through their set, but there were some few choice obscenities being hurled at the band, the nicest of which being “Go home, no one here likes you!”

After the suckfest that was Job For a Cowboy, Finland’s Children of Bodom took the stage. These guys were extremely unique among not only the bands they were performing with, but in the metal genre as well. They bridged the gaps between all the subgenres of metal – thrash, power metal, melodic metal, death metal – it was all there. It didn’t take a genius to see why a lot of people in the crowd went absolutely apeshit over these guys; they were talented and had some catchy choruses to boot.

Not too long after Children of Bodom finished their set, In Flames’ crew members started rolling out their gear – which included their own lighting rig made up of some killer strobes and some retina-searing LED lights. But truth be told, In Flames is more than a pretty light show. They blew me away in the first few songs. Throughout their whole set of melodic death metal, I kept thinking how hard it would be for Megadeth to up the ante after this band. They were definitely one of those bands that has to be seen to be believed. They interacted with the crowd, they were completely on point with everything, and they had some damn good songs, too! So could Megadeth really outshine this band of Swedes?

Opening with ‘Sleepwalker’ from their United Abominations album, Megadeth wasted no time getting things started. There was no long and dramatic intro, which ironically enough, the aforementioned asshats of Job For a Cowboy had used. The most interesting thing about Megadeth’s method of performing is the fact that they don’t talk to the audience a whole lot, but in turn, they squeeze nearly every song into a veritable medley to give the crowd what they really want – the classics. Sure, they played around five songs from their newest album, but they gave their bloodthirsty fans what they wanted and that’s a bulk of material from their Rust In Peace and Countdown to Extinction albums. They raced through their set of 20 plus songs with precision and blasts of energy you wouldn’t expect from some metalheads pushing 50 years of age. If there had to be a highlight of this show (and it’s hard to find one as the whole show was consistently great) it would be Megadeth performing “Mechanix,” which hardcore fans will recognize as the song Metallica borrowed and rearranged to turn into their fan favorite, “The Four Horsemen.” Even at 46, it’s obvious that Mustaine has reclaimed his metal and has found the drive to keep going on with the Megadeth label, perhaps through his fans or maybe through sobriety – but at the end of the day, who cares? He still rocks our faces off. -Neil Miller, Jr.