The first big metal tour of 2021 rolled into Irving’s Music Factory on Saturday night. Called “The Metal Tour of the Year,” the tour brought thrash metal legends Megadeth, along with Lamb of God, Trivium, and Hatebreed, to thrill north Texas’ metalheads. The frequently spoken rule of never wearing the shirt of the band you’re going to see was not observed by the thousands of Megadeth and Lamb of God fans who line-up outside the venue hours in advance of doors. Let’s not begrudge their enthusiasm. It’s been a year and a half since any of us have been able to witness deafening guitars and drums against the backdrop of a relentless Texas summer. At this point, the rules are out.
If you’re still hesitant about attending large social events, you should know that less than one percent of the crowd wore face masks, the venue didn’t demand any proof of negative Covid tests or vaccinations, and social distancing was impossible, whether you were standing in the crowded merch line or anywhere else inside the venue. Indeed, seeing a crowd of thousands packed together, sweating profusely, and mixing it up in the pit was a bit anxiety inducing.
Metalcore juggernauts, Hatebreed, kicked off the show promptly at 6:00pm. To say they “warmed-up the crowd,” would be an understatement. The band brought 18 months worth of pent-up, Covid-tour-cancelling frustration and channeled it to a powerful 35-minute performance. Vocalist Jamey Jasta had the crowd pumping their fists and singing along throughout their set. It didn’t take long before the shows first circle-pit broke out at his insistence.
Florida’s Trivium followed, and with the venue now nearly filled to capacity, the crowd erupted. With a set comprised mostly of material from their 2020 album, What the Dead Men Say, and their forthcoming LP In the Court of the Dragon, it was the tracks from Shogun, In Waves, and The Sin and the Sentence, that really got the crowds blood pumping. At this point, it was hard not to be aware of the collective energy filling the Music Factory. Whether the show sold-out in the final minutes or not, the 8,000 capacity venue was packed with metalheads who were finally getting the concert fix they’ve long been deprived.
When Lamb of God took the stage, the crowd was at full tilt. Playing songs from six of their eight albums, the band had the crowd in their hands. Vocalist Randy Blythe was as bundle of energy. Bouncing across the stage, windmilling his impossibly long dreadlocks, and jumping around like it was the last gig of his life, Blythe left it all on the field. The band was tight, each musician pushing-and-pulling with each other and creating a tightly wound ball of aggression. Crowd favorites, like “Walk With Me in Hell,” from 2006’s Sacrament, and “Laid to Rest,” from 2004’s Ashes of the Wake, had the mosh pit churning and crowd screaming. The band fed off the crowds energy and likewise, the crowd responded to every breakdown, chorus, or other moment of intensity with fervor.
Headliners, Megadeth, took the stage around 9:45pm. Opening with “Hangar 18,” from their seminal thrash album Rust in Peace, the band wasted no time in getting the crowd on board with their set. And it was a very different set than the previous nights tour kick-off in Austin. Deep cuts, like “The Conjuring” from Peace Sells…But, Who’s Buying, and “She-Wolf” from Cryptic Writings, were surprising additions. While they didn’t play “Sweating Bullets,” from their mainstream breakthrough album, Countdown to Extinction, the crowd sang along joyously to “A Tout Le Monde” from Youthanasia. Dave Mustaine and his band were exceptional on this night, with each member note-perfect and clearly relishing the chance to be back in front of a crowd. Having recently beat throat cancer, it was heartening to hear Mustaine’s voice so strong, particularly on “Symphony of Destruction.” The band closed out their set with “Peace Sells” and “Holy Wars…the Punishment Due,” though it’s certain the crowd would have stayed for another hours worth of music had the band obliged. The momentum built up during these two songs was incredible. Certainly, a testament to the power of the band and the devoted fan base they have cultivated over the years.
– J. Kevin Lynch (words), Robb Miller (photos)