Megadeth kicked off their 2016 North American tour last night in Dallas, Texas. I arrived at 9:45pm, assuming Megadeth would go on around 10pm. The box office immediately told me that Megadeth started at 9:20pm. Shit! I should note that this date did not include Suicidal Tendencies, who join the tour on Feb 26th (w/ Dave Lombardo behind the kit!). I knew I could stand missing the first 2-3 songs, so I grabbed a ticket and headed inside.
I squeezed my way through the crowd as Megadeth was tearing through “In My Darkest Hour.” Honestly, I was a little surprised, but the South Side Ball Room was packed to the gills, yet not quite sold out. But, the crowd size was impressive and they were fucking pumped! Fists, devil horns, and cell phones were constantly in the air. Seriously, at any given moment there could’ve been 700 cell phones in the air. Those guys over at Blabbermouth have most of the concert available via fan shot footage, but this clip from “Sweating Bullets” is a wonderful example of going to a concert in this modern world. You can’t even take fan footage these days without 12 other jerks right in front of you doing the same thing and blocking your shot. Good grief, people.
Megadeths set drew heavily from the albums Peace Sells…But, Who’s Buying?, Rust in Peace, and Countdown to Extinction. The Countdown songs, and “A Tout Le Monde,” from 1994’s Youthanasia, earned the biggest response from the crowd. Tracks from So Far, So Good..., Cryptic Writings, and even Supercollider, were also played. Interestingly, only one song, “Fatal Illusion,” from the bands latest Dystopia was played. Overall, the band was in fine form from first song to last. Mustaine’s singing voice was impressively strong and he hasn’t lost a step on the guitar. Founding bassist (depending on who you ask) Dave Ellefson seemingly possesses a limitless supply of energy. He was all over the stage, inciting the fans, and singing-along to the songs. New guitarist Kiko Loureiro also impressed on this night. He admirably handled the guitar duties and Mustaine even retreated toward the back of the stage during his solos. But, the biggest highlight of the show was Lamb of God’s Chris Adler behind the drums. Adler was a beast. He was finesse, he was ham-fisted, he was everything. I honestly didn’t even know he was touring with the band, so this was a pleasant surprise.
I’d like to add that there were aspects of the show that I found to be corny as shit. The dystopian-styled stage pieces looked like something from the set of the original Battlestar Galactica TV show. It was also completely uninspiring when Dave introduced a new song as being inspired by the weather in his new home of Nashville, Tennessee. The weather? From the fucking guy who wrote “The Conjuring?” But, I guess we’re all getting older. Another between song story involved Dave noting that his sister is from Dallas and she used to give him “a whoopin.” Nice story, gramps.
The band also had three or four little intermissions where clips from movies that reference Megadeth were played on the overhead video screen. I dunno, a Wayne’s World clip in the middle of a Megadeth gig is just momentum killing. I do have to admit that the first two times they did this it got a strong response from the crowd. So, what do I know? I do know that at one point after one of these intermissions Dave came out alone and put a hand to his ear to stir up an applause, then he went into a whole “What? Me? Gosh, you guys,” shtick. Maybe I’m being cynical. The crowd certainly gave him what he wanted. But, if you are the cynical type, here’s a drinking game for you: Drink every time Mustaine and Ellefson pass each other on stage without making eye contact.
I’m being a little hard on the guys here, but in the interest of full disclosure I will add that near the end of the show I had managed to get about 15 feet from the stage. When Mustaine happened to come to my end of the stage for a guitar solo it was really thrilling. I honestly had a “Holy shit, Dave Mustaine is shredding right in front of me” moment. It was cool. That was the moment that I paid for and it was totally worth it. Say what you will about the guy, but he’s a great talent.
I can say with confidence that Megadeth performs like a reinvigorated band. Fortified by the new additions of Chris Adler and Kiko Loureiro, the band probably hasn’t sounded this good since the Nick Menza/Marty Freidman days. Whether you’re an old school thrash metal fan, a 90’s Countdown to Extinction fan, or currently loving on Dystopia, there’s something here for everyone.
– J. Kevin Lynch