October 11th, 2016. Sands Event Center – Bethlehem, PA
With five bands on the bill, someone had to go first and that was Butcher Babies. Unfortunately, this show had an extremely early start time, so this reviewer managed to arrive right as they bid farewell to the crowd. Still, judging by seeing them in the past, they surely had an energetic performance highlighting their latest release Take It Like A Man.
Metal Church was next, now reunited with quite possibly their most popular frontman, Mike Howe. Not having seen them before, I was unsure what to expect but they were tight and Howe bounded around the stage with enthusiasm while hitting all of the high notes. Their set consisted of fan favorites and a nod to their newest album XI. Afterward, they invited fans to come say hi to them at the merch table. It certainly intrigued me enough to want to explore their discography further and judging by some of the older concertgoers with Metal Church T-shirts in the crowd, it re-affirmed their love of the band.
Suicidal Tendencies are no strangers to the Sand Event Center, performing there 3 times in the last two years. Seeing them before was a great time, but there was something special about tonight. Of course, Mike Muir was joined by longtime axe man Dean Pleasants. The rhythm section and rhythm guitar were all new, most notably featuring the inclusion of ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. Wow. Just wow. Things began with “You Can’t Bring Me Down” and sped through other classics like “Trip at the Brain” and “War Inside My Head” (and others) before we were asked to “Pledge Your Allegiance.” The backdrop for new album World Gone Mad was represented by the song “Living For Life”, one that initially starts as a slow burner but emerges as a barn-burner. As with the songs themselves, Muir spoke at great length about being true to yourself and a general distrust of those in authority.
Amon Amarth is known for their elaborate stage show, so I was curious how that would manifest as an opening act. Thankfully, they represented the new album Jomsviking with a backdrop, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Stagehands assembled the front of a viking ship in record time. Featuring a dragon with glowing eyes, it was a major visual focus of the set as the band stood on it, ran across it, etc. Some old favorites were in the set as were new tracks from Jomsviking, especially lead single “First Kill” and new single “Raise Your Horns.” After hearing that on the album, it was obvious that was going to become a live staple.
It took a little while for the headliners to come out, but once the show began, it was easy to see why. Megadeth went all out with the production, a screen behind the band helped to narrate the songs and lights on hydraulic lifts pulsing up and down.
We kicked things off with “Hanger 18” which was just what longtime fans needed to ease into things. Early on, personal favorite “Tornado of Souls” was played and fearless leader Dave Mustaine dedicated it to the memory of fallen ex-bandmate Nick Menza.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the show was highlighting selections off of Dystopia, especially in the middle of the show. Seeing as the album was a bit of a return to form for the band, and somewhat timely in this contentious election year, it seemed appropriate. Despite the largely forward-thinking set, the band was happily willing to dive into Cryptic Writings “Trust” and “She Wolf”.
The absolute revelation f the evening was new guitarist Kiko Loureiro. His showmanship was great, but his fluid, flawless playing of classic, well-known and certainly difficult songs nearly made it look easy. “Conquer or Die”, just like on the album, was introduced with Loureiro playing some acoustic Spanish-style guitar. It certainly is a new wrinkle to the band’s sound and one that is used sparingly enough to merely accent the thrash we have come to hope for.
The band brought it all back home by going old-school with “Symphony of Destruction” leading into “Peace Sells.” After a brief retreat into darkness, Mustaine emerged to tell a tale of nearly starting a riot in Ireland before they closed the set with the ensuing song that emerged from that experience, “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.”
Words by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung