Slayer – November 20, 2013 – Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PAFriday, 22nd November 2013
The spaciousness of Stage AE affords show-goers the opportunity to chuck projectiles as they see fit. There’s nothing preventing anyone from bringing their beverage of choice onto the main floor, and by show’s end, a veritable swimming pool mix of beer, water, and vomit made for sticky walking. So the net result is not only guffed-up shoes, but a near-damaged sound console, the result of some idiot tossing a beer from the main balcony which landed on the soundboard midway through Gojira’s set. It dawned on DR right after it happened: This is a Slayer crowd, where anything goes, including a wobbly fella trying to give this scribe a plethora of high-fives during “Necrophiliac.” Something inferred, perhaps?
Australia’s 4Arm were given the high-risk, high-reward task of being in the opening slot, but the band’s rather sturdy brand of thrash seemed to mesh well with a crowd that by appearances, was on the older side of things. To the band’s credit, they didn’t appear to be swallowed by the big stage, or the enormity of the whole idea of opening for Slayer. They simply put their heads down, and rode songs like “Raise a Fist,” “Submission of Liberty” and “Spent and Bled” until their 30 minutes were up. Far worse bands have stumbled in such a position; 4Arm should have some nice momentum going into 2014 after this.
Since it would be entirely pointless to slot another thrash band in the middle of the bill, France’s Gojira got the nod. Exaggerating we are not, but the Brothers Duplantier and gang are one of metal’s top-flight live acts, always armed with a full-bodied live sound and songs that are tailored for any setting. In spite of the sound squabbles that took place during “The Heaviness Matter of the Universe” (which coincidentally, is their best song), the band’s throbbing, larger-than-life (or ocean) riffs gave the proceedings a different pulse. “Backbone,” “The Axe” and “Toxic Garbage Island,” were, as per the usual, crushing. Word to the wise for veteran and/or legendary thrash acts: Bring along a band like Gojira to open. They’ll make you sound that much faster when it’s your time to go on.
The reconfigured Slayer (see: Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph) made the wise move to play a set consisting entirely of songs up to 1990’s Season in the Abyss. Frankly, their live showings have become sterile and predictable, with “Disciple” figuring to be the band’s permanent opener, but once the curtain dropped for “Hell Awaits,” all worries were quelled. The running order was grueling, particularly for Bostaph, yet he held his ground during the manic pounding of “Hell Awaits,” as well as the swift “Necrophilliac.” One could see why he got the call once things went down with Lombardo…the dude is a total d-beat machine behind the kit, albeit less maniacal and unpredictable as his predecessor. Maybe that’s what Slayer needs now: Someone more controllable and less of a loose cannon behind the kit. Who would have thunk?
All sorts of classics unearthed from the vaults, with the razzle-dazzle of “Antichrist” hitting hard, as well as “Die by the Sword” and proverbial underdog “Spirit in Black,” which is arguably one of the band’s most underrated tunes. Araya sounds great, probably the result of his toned-down activity on stage, and while he forgot the words to the first verse of “Jesus Saves” (it’s rapid fire, so he is forgiven), his patented screams possessed plenty of bite, even as matters gravitated to more extreme territory, ala “Hallowed Point” and “War Ensemble.” DR was situated stage left, so we got Kerry King’s guitars full-blast, although Holt seems to have settled into his role as Jeff Hanneman’s replacement suitably.
Stage banter was kept to a minimum, but the unfurling of a banner in tribute of Hanneman said more than anything Araya could say in between songs. Slayer wouldn’t be where they are today without the blonde bomber, and even though Araya and King are the public faces of the band, Hanneman was its backbone. Therefore, it was only fitting the set closed with two of Hanneman’s all-time gems: “South of Heaven” and “Angel of Death.” May he forever reign, and based off this show, Slayer too.