Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Big 4...well 3 out of 4 isn't bad

You are probably wondering what I'm referring to when I write 'The Big 4'. For music lovers and thrash metal fans all over, The Big 4 refers to the four bands that are credited with starting the whole thrash metal genre. Those four bands are: Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer. You see, it all started in the early 1980's and I can remember when I first heard these bands...

I believe the year was 1984. A friend handed me a cassette tape and told me that I needed to listen to this band. I looked at the cassette and on it was the band's name, 'Metallica'. Pretty cool name, I remember thinking. I get home and immediately put the tape in my cassette player and pressed play. From the speakers I heard sounds that I had not heard the likes of before. It was fast. It was loud. It was different. It was metal! I LOVED IT!! Now up until that point, probably the heaviest, hardest music I had listened to was most likely Black Sabbath or AC/DC. This music was on another level. Not long after hearing Metallica for the first time, I was introduced to the other three bands, each with their own unique sound. These bands would play a pivotal role in the expansion and shaping of the music that I yearned to listen to. That was 1984.

Fast forward to 2010 and the very reason why I write this. Over 25 years have passed since The Big 4 hit the music scene. These four thrash metal pioneers decided to tour together for the first time in history. The first leg of the tour included all four bands - Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax - and toured primarily in Europe. The second leg of the tour saw only three of the bands continuing. The Jagermeister Music Tour, featuring Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer, came to The Rave in Milwaukee, WI last night (October 16, 2010) and it was sold out. I knew going into it that this was going to be one awesome show and I was not disappointed.

One question a lot of people wondered was, 'With all these great bands, who opens? who headlines?" Great question, but does it really matter? I was about to get my butt kicked by three of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time!

The night's emcee was Jim Florentine. He's a comedian who also stars on VH1's That Metal Show. I got to meet him after the show.

Opening act was Anthrax. Anthrax really hit it big starting in 1985 under lead singer Joey Belladonna. He had left the band in 1992, but now he was back with Anthrax. Anthrax was one of the first metal bands to crossover when the collaborated with rap artists Public Enemy in 1991 on a joint version of "Bring the Noise".  Last time I had seen Anthrax was at the University of Connecticut when they were on tour with Public Enemy.  Yeah...long time ago. No collaboration tonight. Just a short seven song set featuring some of their best songs:

Anthrax Setlist

Next up was Megadeth. Little fact for those who aren't familiar with these bands. Dave Mustaine, lead singer and founder of Megadeth, was once the lead guitarist for Metallica. He had gotten himself kicked out of Metallica and started his own band, Megadeth. Everything happens for a reason, right? Had that not happened, the world might not have been introduced to Megadeth. This was the first time I had seen Megadeth live, having missed out on other opportunities through the years.  Definitely did not disappoint. Megadeth is a bigger, more successful band than Anthrax and thus played a longer set:

Headlining for the night was none other than Slayer. Again, each band has its own sound, Slayer being no different. My first time seeing Slayer live also. No disappointment either. Slayer killed it!

I mentioned that each band has it own distinct sound that you either love and respect it or you just plain hate it. I've met metal music fans who are really picky about what bands they will listen to and which they will not. For example, many Megadeth fans really hate Metallica, most likely because of Dave Mustaine being kicked out of Metallica. Anthrax has gone through so many lineup changes over the years that they seemed to have lost momentum. With Joey Belladonna back on vocals and a new record in the works, perhaps they will regain prominence once again. Megadeth has had nearly 20 different members of its band, but the one constant has been Dave Mustaine. With Dave at the helm, Megadeth has put out 12 albums and have maintained their place in thrash metal dominance. Other than a few changes on drums, Slayer's lineup has been unchanged over their career with eleven albums to their credit. 

As I write about the band member changes, it has made me think just how important the lead singer is to a band's sound. I can't think of one band that, after a change of its lead singer, has been the same band with the same success. Anthrax and Skid Row come to mind and there are others. Would Megadeth be the same without Dave Mustaine?  Would Metallica be the same without James Hetfield? What about Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickenson?  In my opinion, the lead singer can make or break a band.

I had already seen Metallica live more than 15 times, but it would have been awesome to see The Big 4. Maybe they'll make a US tour.  Metal Rulz!!

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